School, county officials assure parents pertussis outbreak is under control
Eight students with whooping cough had been vaccinated
Menomonee Falls - Waukesha County Public Health Division is monitoring a pertussis, or "whooping cough," outbreak after nine cases were confirmed at Menomonee Falls North Middle School.
According to the Director of Pupil Services for the Menomonee Falls School District Kathy Zarling, all those who were in direct contact with the eight eighth-graders have been notified, as have their parents.
A ninth case has been confirmed, a teacher who had been vaccinated, but not received the booster.
A letter was sent home to parents of all eighth-graders immediately following the outbreak last week, and on Friday a letter was also sent to everyone at North.
"There is always a balance between notifying and creating hysteria," Zarling said shortly before the all-school letter was sent out.
Vaccine reduces spread
In an odd twist, Zarling said all eight students who had contracted whooping cough had been vaccinated, but because the vaccine is only 80 percent effective, the students still got sick.
But Julianne Davan, spokeswoman for Waukesha County Public Health says that doesn't mean the vaccine isn't working.
"The vaccine will prevent further spread. We do believe that if had less people been vaccinated, that had these students not been vaccinated, this could have spread and been a lot worse, so we believe the vaccine is working."
Davan said the county did send what they call a "strike team" to North to investigate the outbreak. This includes interviewing people who have come in contact with the sick students.
Local doctors are required to notify the county when these types of respiratory infections are spotted. It wasn't until after the county was notified that Menomonee Falls School District heard of the problem.
An additional eight students are being tested after having been in contact and showing potential symptoms of whooping cough.
A Waukesha County Public Health official says the infection has been contained and people simply must take precautions to prevent the spread of germs.
"Considering it's such a small group of kids, we think it's very much under control," Davan said.
Watch for symptoms
Davan said parents should contact their pediatrician if they are concerned about a sick child. Knowing the tell-tale signs allows parents to help diagnose the infection.
"Coughing to the point where you can't get any air, and some people even vomit because they can't get air in," Davan said. "And when you finally get that air in, it makes a 'whooping' sound, which is where the name 'whooping cough' came from."
As with any illness, staying away from those infected and regularly washing your hands is the best prevention.
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