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Confirmed Whooping Cough Case At Maine Memorial Elementary

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A confirmed case of whooping cough has been reported at Maine Memorial Elementary School. A letter from the Broome County Health Department was sent to parents and guardians of students on Monday. The letter alerts them of the case and tells parents to keep an eye out for symptoms in their own children. 

Symptoms of pertussis (whooping cough) include coughing fits, vomiting, turning blue, and difficulty catching breath. New York State does require students to get the pertussis vaccine before enrolling in public school. The Health Department says immunization does decrease the risk of getting the disease, but as with most vaccines, it is not guaranteed to fully prevent it.

"This is not an outbreak, and there is no sign of it becoming an outbreak," says Dr. Christopher Ryan, Medical Director at the Broome County Health Department.

That being said, Ryan says whooping cough is highly contagious and spreads through the air by cough. Dr. Christopher Ryan, Medical Director at the Broome County Health Department says those at risk of getting the disease are students who have had prolonged face-to-face contact with the infected student. Those students have already been identified and the Health Department has met with the parents to assess the amount of contact. If a student is thought to be at risk, the Health Department recommended the students see a physician who can prescribe an antibiotic to prevent them becoming ill.

"I understand it's scary, especially with children as young as elementary," says Maine-Endwell School District Superintendent Jason Van Fossen, "People are certainly concerned with the spreading. And we understand that. But we feel we are taking every precaution."

Van Fossen  wants to assure parents that there is only the one confirmed case and the district is following every step recommended by the Health Department.

The following is a list of recommendations from the New York State Department of Health:

  • Infants under one year old, especially those under six months, are most likely to have severe symptoms if they develop pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illnesses should be seen promptly by a physician.
  • Pertussis vaccine, called DTaP, is available for routine use for children under seven. Pertussis vaccine, called Tdap is available for adolescents and adults aged 11 years or older to be used as a single booster dose. Under-vaccinated children, aged 7-10 may also be vaccinated with Tdap. Consult your physician if you have any questions about these vaccines or your child's immunization records.
  • If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a severe cough, talk to your child's doctor without delay. Tell the doctor that there has been a pertussis case in your child's school.