Whooping cough outbreak spreads in Park City schools
March 31, 2015
A whooping cough outbreak in Park City schools has officials urging parents to take caution.
A letter to parents from Carolyn Rose, nursing director for the Summit County Health Department, displayed on the Park City School District’s website, pcschools.us, advises parents to follow a strict protocol while the pertussis — more commonly called whooping cough — outbreak persists.
Parents whose students have not been vaccinated and are in classrooms with two or more confirmed whooping cough cases are mandated by the health department to keep their children home for 21 days or have them complete antibiotic therapy. According to the letter, "This is to protect the child from this disease which could make him/her very ill, and lead to hospitalization."
Students who have been vaccinated may still be susceptible to whooping cough, the letter states, as the vaccine is not 100-percent effective, and its protection can also decrease five years after the last dose. Even so, vaccinated children typically have fewer symptoms — similar to those of the common cold — and are less likely to spread the disease.
Immunized children who live with someone who has whooping cough should receive antibiotics and can return to school if they don’t have symptoms, according to the letter.
In an interview with The Park Record Monday, Rose said 27 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in students in elementary schools throughout Park City. About 90 percent of children who have been tested have not had the disease.
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Parents of vaccinated children should still consider keeping them home from school if they are displaying even mild symptoms, Rose said.
"If their child is starting to show symptoms, and they’ve been around other children who have been sick, then I would keep them home," Rose said. "Technically, we like to keep anybody who’s sick out of work and school, but that’s not always possible. So they just need to use judgement and call their doctors."
Rose said Summit County has about a 90-percent vaccination rate, which is on the cusp of herd immunity — when a large enough portion of the population is immunized to protect the unimmunized portion. Ensuring their children are vaccinated is the best thing parents can do to protect their children from highly contagious and dangerous diseases like whopping cough, Rose said.
"Of course, with this pertussis outbreak, I know that parents with kids who aren’t immunized will say to me, ‘But yeah, the immunization doesn’t work,’" Rose said. "Well, we’ve just been lucky that it does work and that 90 percent of the kids who are tested have been negative. We’re very lucky it hasn’t spread to unimmunized children and babies."
As of Monday, there was one confirmed case in North Summit School District and none in South Summit School District.
For more information, call a physician or the Summit County Health Department at 435-333-1500.