Pertussis outbreaks lead Illinois public health director to issue
guidance to school staff
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[DEC. 4, 2006]
-- Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, issued
recommendations Saturday to limit transmission and control pertussis
(whooping cough) outbreaks in Illinois secondary schools. More than
470 cases of pertussis have been reported in Illinois this year,
with a significant portion of these occurring among secondary school
students, including the most recent outbreak involving 30 students
at New Trier High School.
"To help limit the spread of
pertussis in schools, it's important that all school staff,
including those who lead extracurricular activities requiring
mandatory attendance, such as coaches and band directors, understand
the importance of referring students with a persistent cough to the
school nurse, and the need to exclude students suspected of having
pertussis," Whitaker said.
If students with pertussis are not
properly treated and restricted from extracurricular activities,
they may spread pertussis to students at other schools, thereby
creating the potential for new outbreaks. While pertussis is not
life-threatening to most healthy secondary school students, this
group may be in contact with younger children, infants and children
with chronic illnesses, who are at higher risk of developing serious
complications, including pneumonia and seizures, or death. Pertussis
outbreaks in schools, in which numerous students are ill, often last
for many months and can be extremely disruptive to academic,
athletic and extracurricular activities.
Measures to help schools limit the impact of pertussis on schools
and communities include:
Parents should be strongly encouraged to contact their
children's health care provider in order to find out if they
should receive a pertussis booster shot with TdaP.
of students with pertussis: Students with a persistent cough
should be referred for medical evaluation, which should include
evaluation for pertussis. Physicians and school nurses should
report pertussis cases to the local health department within 24
hours of case confirmation in order to help ensure that
appropriate public health measures are taken for each case.
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Students and faculty
with confirmed pertussis should be excluded from school until
they have received five days of proper antibiotic treatment.
Individuals with suspected pertussis should also be excluded
from school until a physician has made an alternative diagnosis,
or until they have received five days of empiric antibiotic
treatment for pertussis.
schools and extracurricular activities:
Pertussis is a respiratory disease caused by bacteria. Symptoms
start with a runny nose, mild fever and mild cough, similar to a
cold, but progress to severe spasms of coughing that can interfere
with eating, drinking and breathing. Older children, adolescents and
adults often have milder disease than young children. Pertussis is
spread by coughing and sneezing and is highly contagious.
Antibiotics are used to treat pertussis.
Children should receive vaccinations against pertussis at 2, 4, 6
and 15 months and again between 4 and 6 years of age. The protection
received from pertussis vaccinations administered in early childhood
begins to wear off after five to 10 years, leaving preteens and
teenagers, as well as adults, at risk for this highly contagious
Department of Public Health news release]