Juneau School District warns about uptick in cases of whooping cough


School District

Juneau School District Offices with Harborview Elementary School in the background. File photo.

The Juneau School District is warning parents about recent cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in local schools.

Spokeswoman Kristin Bartlett says letters went home Thursday with students at Juneau Douglas High School, Harborview Elementary, the Marie Drake Building, Gastineau Community School, and the Juneau Community Charter School. She says there have been two confirmed cases and three suspected cases at schools in the downtown area.

“All of them are currently being treated by a physician,” she says. “But because it’s a highly contagious disease, we wanted to make sure that people are aware of it, particularly families where they have infants or small children or if a family member might be pregnant.”

The illness begins with cold-like symptoms and a cough that gradually becomes worse. Within two weeks symptoms include numerous rapid coughing episodes, sometimes followed by a high-pitched whoop, or vomiting. It can be a very serious disease, especially for infants.

April Rezendes is a nurse with the Juneau Public Health Center. She says the best way to avoid whooping cough is to get vaccinated.

“Starting at two months of age kids can get immunized, and its five shots between the ages of two months and the last one is between four and six years. And then a repeat booster shot around 11 or 12,” Rezendes says. “And there’s also now [a vaccine] for adults. So, if you haven’t had a tetanus shot in the last five or six years, it’s included in that now.”

Pertussis spreads through person-to-person contact, most commonly when the infected person coughs or sneezes. For that reason, Rezendes says it’s important for children and adults to stay home when they are infected. If you or your children develop symptoms, Rezendes recommends seeing a doctor immediately.

“The problem is adults will more often just feel like they have a cold, but they can still spread it. And in kids it’s much more severe,” she says.

Bartlett says there were three confirmed cases of whooping cough at Juneau schools in 2008, the last time the district sent out a notice about the illness.

“It’s been awhile, but this is something that we have experienced before,” she says.

At that time, Bartlett says the district and the public health center held free booster shot clinics at schools. She says they’ll continue to monitor the current outbreak and could do something similar if it gets worse.

Original post:

The Juneau School District is warning parents about a few recent cases of whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, in local schools.

An announcement on the district’s website doesn’t say how many cases there have been locally, but says whooping cough has been on the rise in Alaska since 2012.

The illness begins with cold-like symptoms and a cough that gradually becomes worse. Within two weeks symptoms include numerous rapid coughing episodes, sometimes followed by a high-pitched whoop, or vomiting. It can be a very serious disease, especially for infants.

Pertussis spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes, spreading respiratory droplets to other people.

Vaccination can prevent it from spreading. The Juneau Public Health Center recommends the Tdap vaccine for adults and the DTaP vaccine for children under 7 years old.

If you or your child develop symptoms, the health center recommends seeing a doctor immediately, and staying home from work or school for five days.