Number of pertussis cases on the rise

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By Kelly Richardson



HARDIN COUNTY — The number of pertussis cases in Hardin County increased slightly over the weekend.

There were 16 confirmed cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Hardin County as of Monday afternoon, up three from the 13 reported on Friday. The confirmed cases have occured in children from three area schools — St. James School, Elizabethtown Christian Academy and Heartland Elementary School.

The Lincoln Trail Health Department is working with the schools, along with pediatric offices and other medical offices and clinics, to ensure cases are caught, especially with those who have come into contact with the 16 children, said health department spokeswoman Wendy Keown.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease transmitted through the contact of discharge from respiratory mucous membranes from infected people. Several thousand cases are reported in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control Web site.

There is a series of vaccinations that can prevent the spread of the disease, and also make cases of the disease much milder. The vaccinations begin at two months, and continue at 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, 4 to 6 years and a booster shot at 11 to 12 years of age, Keown said.

Children who haven’t been vaccinated or have not completed the vaccine series are the most likely to receive a severe case of pertussis, and can potentially die from it, according to the CDC site.

The children who have confirmed cases are doing well, Keown said. They had had up-to-date vaccinations.

Keown said health department officials are reminding school administrators to look at students’ vaccination records, and to promote basic good-health practices such as hand-washing.

There were several cases of pertussis in Bullitt County as well, but no link has been established between the two counties. Keown said it is often difficult to establish an outbreak origin.

Linda French, principal of Elizabethtown Christian Academy, said cases have been confined to the school’s preschool and daycare. French said children with confirmed cases are staying home until they’ve been on antibiotics for five days.

French said ECA also is keeping classes that have been exposed to the disease away from students who have not, along with informing parents of the situation. Teachers also have worked with preschoolers on covering their mouths when coughing or sneezing, and have increased hand-washing throughout the day.

ECA continues to work with the health department, which school officials contacted when they first learned of a pertussis case.

Kelly Richardson can be reached at (270) 505-1747.