Whooping cough: High school reports one case; warns parents

Editor's note: The following was a message from Dr. Stacey Gross, principal of Ridgefield High School, sent to parents Wednesday March 22, 2017:

"I am writing to inform you that RHS administration has been made aware of one case of an individual absent from school due to pertussis (whooping cough). While whooping cough is a vaccine – preventable disease, and children previously immunized are protected, out of an abundance of caution, we believe it is important to share this information with the RHS parent community. 

Pertussis is an infection that affects the airways and is spread from person to person by direct or close contact with mouth and nose secretions such as coughing or sneezing.  Its severe cough can last for weeks or months.  Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be dangerous for babies and people with weakened immune systems.  Family members with pertussis can easily spread the infection to other others in their household.

If your child has a cough, please keep him/her home from school and all activities, such as sports.  Make an appointment with your doctor, alerting them that your child may have been exposed to pertussis.  If your child has been previously told by your doctor that they have a weakened immune system, ask the doctor to prescribe an antibiotic for your child because of their possible exposure to pertussis. This should be done even if your child is not coughing.  As well, an antibiotic should be prescribed if your child lives with a woman who is pregnant, a baby younger than 12 months old or anyone else with a weakened immune system.

If your child is diagnosed by their doctor with pertussis, we ask that you contact the school’s Health Office to let them know. School officials may request that your child not return to school or activities until they have been on an antibiotic for five days.  The Health Office will also require a note stating that your child has pertussis.

If your child sees their doctor for a cough and it is determined that they do not have pertussis, please ask for a note from the doctor stating that your child’s cough is not pertussis and that your child may return to school and activities.  This note should also be submitted to the Health Office.

Protection against pertussis from the childhood vaccine DTaP decreases over time.  Older children and adults, including pregnant women, should get a pertussis booster shot called “Tdap” to help protect themselves and others.

Please know that we are in close communication with the Town Health Department, the District Medical Advisor, Dr. Ahern, and our School Nurse Supervisor, as we receive guidance to ensure that our actions keep your child protected from this infection.  We ask that you help us achieve this important goal by following the above guidelines.  Should you have further questions or concerns, please call our Health Office at x11381, or the Town Health Department at 203-431-2745. You can also review the information on the Center for Disease Control website.

https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/index.html

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation."