District Dealing With Outbreak Of Whooping Cough In Schools

Published: Aug 17 2011 01:58:40 PM EDT   Updated On: Mar 02 2011 06:02:08 AM EST
HAMBURG, Pa. -

It's more than just a sick day for some students in one local school district.

According to officials in the Hamburg School District, they have an outbreak of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, on their hands.

A letter to parents from Hamburg superintendent Stephen Keifer warns parents there have been "several confirmed cases of pertussis in the school district."

Keifer told 69 News there have been five cases, four of which were students at the elementary schools.

"That's not unique," said Dr. Kenneth De Benedictis, the head of Reading Hospital's infection control and prevention. "That's happened before in that population."

De Benedictis said most children have been vaccinated against pertussis.

"Either it's worn off or there's something defective in the vaccine, but it is an effective vaccine basically," De Benedictis explained.

Pertussis has been making a comeback over the past year. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the state saw 974 cases of the prolonged cough last year.

"If the cough has whooping with it, that respiratory whooping before the cough, that's another indication," De Benedictis said.

In California, they saw more than 7,000 cases last year and have made the vaccine mandatory for older school children.

Locally, a booster to the vaccine is highly recommended.

"D-TAP is your diphtheria and tetanus [shot] that you get every 10 years with a P in it, P for pertussis," explained De Benedictis.

You don't have to wait 10 years to get the one-time booster. He recommended talking it over with your doctor.

"Especially now, we want to get those teenagers and young adults [vaccinated]," De Benedictis said.

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics.

In Hamburg, the superintendent said the district is working with the Department of Health to plan a vaccination clinic in the near future.

LINKS: Whooping Cough Info. From The CDC Whooping Cough Fact Sheet From The Pa. Dept. Of Health