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Two Whooping Cough Cases Reported in District 158

The McHenry County Health Department confirms two cases, other suspected cases not yet confirmed.

The McHenry County Health Department confirmed two cases of pertussis, known as whooping cough, in Consolidated School District 158 schools.

Health department officials confirmed two cases and there are other suspected cases that have not been confirmed, spokesperson Debra Quackenbush said Friday.

The onset was Sept. 13, she said. Health officials confirmed the cases this week. Quackenbush did not indicate how many other District 158 cases are being reviewed.

District 158 posted a health message on its website Thursday about three probable cases, two at Marlowe Middle School and one at Huntley High School. Quackenbush did not indicate which cases were confirmed. Several other cases at Marlowe have been referred for follow up to the health department, according to the district’s website.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly infectious bacterial infection that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing and may last for several months, the district’s website states. Although most people recover completely from pertussis, complications from the disease can be severe in high risk groups, especially infants under one year, and children who have not been fully immunized against the disease. Vaccinated children and adults still become infected with pertussis; however, disease is less likely to be severe, according to the website.

The District 158 cases are part of an ongoing pertussis outbreak that began last year with over 400 cases reported from August 2011 to August 2012, Quackenbush said. In a normal year, the health department sees less than 20 cases per year, she said.

Illinois made pertussis vaccinations a requirement for school immunizations this year as a result of the outbreak. Whooping cough outbreaks have been reported throughout the country.

Stopping and/or controlling an outbreak is primarily through education and advocacy, Quackenbush said.

The health department is not authorized to close schools due to outbreaks, the decision is up to school officials, she said. What the health department does is make recommendations on cleaning schools to prevent further illnesses, provide proper hand hygiene education and provide vaccination information for staff and families, she said.

District 158 provided the following precautions:

  • If your child has a persistent cough or exhibits any of the symptoms described above, and/or more than one member of your family has these symptoms, please have a doctor evaluate them.
  • If they are given antibiotics such as Azithromycin (Zpak) or Biaxin after being evaluated they need to stay home until they have been on the antibiotics for five days.
  • Encourage proper hand washing and coughing hygiene at all times. This includes covering your cough with a tissue, coughing into your elbow if no tissue is available and proper disposal of tissues.

Anyone with questions can contact the McHenry County Health Department’s Communicable Disease Program at 815-334-4500.

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