Henrico parents notified of increase in pertussis cases

(File photo)

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — School officials in Henrico County notified parents at Glen Allen High School this week that they have been informed of multiple cases of pertussis among students.

The health department added that it is seeing an increase in the respiratory illness, also known as ‘whooping cough,’ in the broader community as well.

Below is the letter the health department sent Tuesday to parents of students at Glen Allen High School:

Dear Parent or Guardian:
We have been informed of additional cases of pertussis (whooping cough) at Glen Allen High School and are seeing an increase in the broader community as well. Pertussis is a respiratory illness caused by bacteria that affects people of all ages characterized by severe coughing. It is spread through the air in droplets produced during sneezing and/or coughing. Although pertussis is usually not a life-threatening illness, it can be very serious in infants (less than one year of age)
and in individuals with compromised immune systems or chronic medical conditions.

When a case of pertussis is identified, the Virginia Department of Health recommends that parents of children and individuals who may have been in close contact with the case be notified. In the high school environment it can be difficult to determine exactly who would have had close contact with the case, so we provide general education to the entire school as it is also possible to be exposed to pertussis in the community setting.

Recommendations for preventive treatment of close contacts vary with each case, dependent upon duration and severity of illness. Preventive treatment is not recommended for all possible contacts at this time. However, individuals who have had a cough lasting more than two weeks or a severe cough with wheezing or vomiting lasting less than two weeks should be evaluated by their primary care provider. You may choose to take this letter with you to the doctor and ask for
a nasopharyngeal swab test for pertussis.

Pertussis can be treated successfully with antibiotics and can be prevented by age-appropriate vaccinations in children and adults. Susceptible persons who are exposed to someone with
pertussis will typically develop symptoms of illness 7 to 10 days after exposure, but can develop symptoms up to 21 days after exposure. Please monitor for symptoms until June 21, 2017. Individuals without symptoms or with only mild cold-like symptoms do not need to be tested or treated at this time.

If you have any questions, you may contact your child’s pediatrician or Laura Young, Henrico Health District’s Epidemiologist, at 804-501-5216 or laura.r.young@vdh.virginia.gov. A fact sheet about pertussis can be accessed here.

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