“A case of pertussis or whooping cough has been identified in the Ithaca City School District,” officials warned parents in a letter that went home on Tuesday, “and your child may have been exposed.”
The school district isn’t identifying the infected student, who attends Cayuga Heights Elementary School. “We are working closely with the Tompkins County Health Department and our school physician to monitor the school community,” said a message to parents from Cathy Sinnott, RN, MPH, ICSD coordinator of health services and wellness.
“Pertussis is a contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that is spread through the air by coughing or sneezing,” according to the school district’s bulletin. “Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes worse over 1-2 weeks. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs followed by a whooping noise.” The cough can last for weeks or months, sometimes leading to vomiting.
“Anyone can get pertussis,” the district says, “but it can be very dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems.”
The district urges parents whose children have a cough to keep them home from school and activities such as sports or play groups, to make an appointment with the child’s doctor, and to warn the doctor that the child may have been exposed to pertussis.
“Make sure your family’s vaccinations are up to date,” urges the school district, which passed along recommendations from the Tompkins County Health Department. “The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community.” Protection from the childhood DTaP vaccination decreases over time, and older children and adults should get a pertussis booster vaccine called Tdap, health officials say.
The school district did not respond to our requests for additional information.