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Important pertussis information

Filed in Archive, District, District News by on June 4, 2019

The following information was emailed to all parents in the Bethlehem Central School District on Tuesday, June 4:

Dear Parent/Guardian:

I am writing to make you aware that a case of pertussis at Bethlehem Central High School has been confirmed by the Albany County Department of Health. Also known as whooping cough, pertussis is a respiratory illness that can be spread from person to person. The individual diagnosed with pertussis received appropriate medical care and was excluded from school until no longer contagious. People who may have had close contact with this individual are being identified and will be contacted directly.

Although the likelihood of students 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.

Pertussis is a contagious disease that is spread 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 your child 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.


Jody Monroe
Superintendent of Schools