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An important message for BC families about pertussis

Filed in District by on May 10, 2017

The following is an an important message from Superintendent Jody Monroe:

May 10, 2017​

Dear Parent/Guardian:

I am writing to make you aware that there are now four lab-confirmed cases of pertussis in the Bethlehem Central School District that have been reported by the Albany County Department of Health. In addition to these lab-confirmed cases, Health Department officials are reporting three more cases confirmed by clinical criteria plus an epidemiologic link to a laboratory-confirmed case. In other words, these three individuals have symptoms of pertussis and have been in close contact (i.e. family members, close friends) with lab-confirmed cases. Therefore, the total number of cases being reported in our BCSD community at this time is four laboratory-confirmed cases (two at the high school, two at the middle school) and three epidemiologically-linked cases (one at the high school, one at Slingerlands Elementary School and one at Eagle Elementary School).  

All of these individuals have sought and received appropriate medical care and were excluded from the school community until no longer contagious. Although the likelihood of your child having been exposed to pertussis through interaction at school is low, it is important that you be familiar with the signs and symptoms of pertussis.

The school district continues to work with the Health Department to actively monitor any cases of pertussis in our school community and we encourage you once again to review the important information contained in this letter that will help you identify the symptoms of this disease, also known as whooping cough.

Pertussis is a contagious disease that is spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. People with pertussis can spread the disease when coughing or sneezing while in close contact to others. Usually, pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms which can include a low-grade fever and a mild cough. After 1-2 weeks the cough becomes worse and people may experience a series of coughing fits that may be followed by vomiting, difficulty catching their breath (a breath in may have a “whooping” sound), and fatigue. The cough is often worse at night and it may not be relieved with cough medications. These coughing fits can last for many weeks. The illness may be milder and the characteristic whoop absent in those who were previously vaccinated. Persons at highest risk for severe complications and/or death from pertussis include infants, immunocompromised individuals, and patients with moderate to severe asthma.

If your child develops a persistent cough (present for a week or more), have him or her evaluated by your healthcare provider. The provider should be informed that pertussis has been diagnosed in an individual that your child may have had contact with at school.

If the healthcare provider determines that your child has pertussis, treatment with antibiotics is recommended to help your child get well faster and to lower the risk of spreading the disease to others. Your child cannot return to school/work/extracurricular activities until 5 days of antibiotic treatment has been completed or the health department otherwise gives approval.

Please be aware that pertussis can occur in persons who have received childhood vaccinations for this disease because protection decreases over time. This is a good time to make sure you, your child(ren), and other members of your household are up-to-date with immunizations. Your healthcare provider can help determine whether you should receive this vaccine.

More information and a fact sheet about pertussis is available here from the New York State Department of Health

If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact your child’s healthcare provider, your school nurse, or the Albany County Department of Health at (518) 447-4640.

Sincerely,

Jody Monroe
Superintendent of Schools