Holy Family School handles whooping cough infection

By: Kevin Lewis Email
By: Kevin Lewis Email

A local school is battling its second case of whooping cough in less than four months.

To prevent the contagious disease from spreading, teachers at Holy Family School in South Bend are taking all necessary precautions.

On Monday, the school handed-out a four-page take home letter to every one of its 412 students. However, that warning may have come too late. The school says multiple students are experiencing coughs of their own. One girl felt sick enough to be sent home Wednesday afternoon.

"It’s very severe and can actually induce vomiting. It can also really be hard to breathe,” said Barb Baker with the St. Joseph County Health Department.

It’s as hard to watch, as it is to hear, the cough often lasts up to 60 days and can be fatal for babies. Therefore, most infants receive a series of three vaccines to prevent the disease. Yet, those antibodies often wear off by the age of 12.

So in effort to lower infection rates, state legislators passed a new law in 2010. It required all incoming sixth grade students get a booster vaccine.

The results were dramatic. Prior to the bill, Indiana had 727 cases of whooping cough. Now more than eight months into 2011, that number sits at just 138.

"There are a lot of cases that have declined. I think part of that adolescent initiative is a big factor. That was the highest age group where we were seeing the most cases,” Baker added.

So why then are kids still getting sick?

Doctors say in rare cases, infant vaccines can wear off a year or two early, leaving forth and fifth graders more susceptible to the disease.

"You hope you don't have a lot of the outliers, but it does happen. We can see kids in the younger school age get sick, we don't see a lot of it, but it does happen,” Baker concluded.

Now, Holy Family hopes it just does not happen again.

"All the children have been immunized for these diseases. Illnesses happen, we fight them as best we can,” said Vince LaBarbera with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Health experts say whooping cough is initially hard to detect with symptoms very similar to the common cold. However, its signature trait is a loud, uncontrollable cough that can even force people to vomit.

If you’d like to re-vaccinate your kids earlier than the sixth grade, visit the St. Joseph County Health Department. Vaccines are only $10 each.

To schedule an appointment, just call (574) 245-6656.

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