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Dear Parent/ Guardian/ Faculty Member:
We have received a confirmed diagnosis of Pertussis (also known as whooping cough) of a student in the Harwood Union Unified School district. According to the Health Department, other cases have been reported throughout the state. We understand receiving a letter of this nature may cause alarm, but it is intended to inform and communicate a potential exposure. As always, the wellness of our students is top priority and we want to be sure you’re aware of the signs and symptoms of Pertussis.
Pertussis is a contagious disease that is spread through the air when infected people cough. While immunization protects most children during the elementary school years, protection from the vaccine lessens over time. Pertussis can occur in fully immunized individuals. Students and/or staff with a cough are advised to see their Pediatrician/ Medical Provider for formal evaluation and possible treatment for pertussis.
Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and an irritating cough, which usually becomes increasingly severe over 1-2 weeks. Symptoms often include a long series of coughs, sometimes followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. Vomiting may occur after a coughing episode. There is generally no fever.
Antibiotic treatment early in the disease may decrease the severity of symptoms and reduce the infectiousness of the ill person. Antibiotics may be recommended for close contacts of pertussis cases in order to prevent them from contracting and/or transmitting the disease.
Vermont Department of Health recommendations include the following:
1. Close contacts, including household members and roommates, of persons diagnosed with pertussis should receive a protective course of antibiotics to prevent additional infections. A Public Health Nurse will investigate to identify close contacts in the school and refer them to their health care providers. Classrooms are not generally considered close enough contact to warrant preventive treatment for pertussis.
2. Any student or staff member who has any of the above symptoms or a cough lasting more than a week should be evaluated for pertussis by a health care provider as soon as possible.
3. Children or staff with confirmed or suspected pertussis should stay home until they have completed 5 days of the antibiotic treatment for pertussis.
4. The Vermont Department of Health recommends that all adolescents, ages 11-18 years, receive a single (booster) dose of Tdap vaccine. Adults, especially those who have, or anticipate having, close contact with an infant should receive a single dose of Tdap vaccine. Please consult your health care provider.
5. Children less than 1 year old, particularly infants under 6 months of age, are most likely to experience severe illness if they develop pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Babies with any coughing illness or choking episodes should be promptly evaluated by their physician.
Please notify the school or health department personnel if your child is diagnosed with confirmed or possible pertussis. If you have any questions, please call the Vermont Department of Health at (802) 479-4200 or 479-0987 between 7:45 AM and 4:30 PM Monday-Friday.
We hope this letter finds you well. Please do not hesitate to contact your School Nurse as an additional resource.
Brigid Nease and the Principals of the Harwood Union Unified School District