By Jason Arndt

Officials from the Kenosha County Division of Health confirmed eight cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, at Westosha Central High School since Nov. 7.

The disease begins with respiratory symptoms of cold and cough, and can quickly progress into severe fits of coughing and may be accompanied by vomiting, according to a letter sent home to parents by the Kenosha County Division of Health Services.

Pertussis symptoms occur 7-10 days after exposure, but there have been cases where symptoms occur as early as five days.

Since the initial confirmation, school officials continue to emphasize healthy hygiene habits and have sent letters to parents on four separate days, according to Westosha Central Principal Lisa Albrecht.

Working with the health department and the school nurse, Jessica Monson, the school has also made efforts to sanitize the building.

“Jessica is in contact with the custodial crew and they have cleaned desktops and doorknobs, but this is a respiratory illness and after a good cleaning like this, if an infected student coughs or sneezes, the area has just been re-contaminated,” Albrecht said.

“We are stressing good hygiene, frequent hand-washing, no sharing of food or drinks, covering mouth when coughing and so on.”

While Westosha Central officials continue to stress proper hygiene, the school has stayed in contact with parents, who have received letters on four separate days since Nov. 7.

Albrecht said two different emails were sent to parents, one for students who had close contact with someone affected, and a general letter for the rest of the school.

“These students included close friends and peers that are in the student’s classes and/or extra-curricular activities if applicable,” Albrecht said regarding the correspondence parents.

“For non-close contact students, a letter was sent to parents which was more general, informing parents of a positive case of pertussis as well as the pertussis fact sheet.”

After the first reported case on Nov. 7, the school had seven more students test positive for whooping cough, two each on Nov. 9 and Nov. 13 followed by three on Nov. 17.

Albrecht said the reported cases have not caused a substantial drop in student attendance, noting the eight students make up less than one percent of 1,086 enrolled at the school.

No staff members have been affected by whooping cough, Albrecht said.

With Thanksgiving break this week, Albrecht hopes the time away from school helps reduce further spreading of the illness.

If a student is symptomatic, however, Public Health Nurse Kira Krause, of the Division of Health, encourages parents and guardians to keep their children home from school.

Other safeguards include vaccinations, said Krause.

“The most effective way to prevent pertussis is through vaccination with DTap for infants and children and with Tdap for 10 years old and up, and to stay home if you are sick,” Krause said.

For students who are at home sick, Albrecht assured parents the school plans to work with those affected.

“We strongly encourage parents of these students to speak with their doctor and determine the best course of action for the student,” Albrecht said. “Whatever that is, we will support the student to ensure they are keeping up with their school work.”


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