TWIN FALLS — A case of whooping cough has been reported at Canyon Ridge High School, the school district announced Friday.
The district was notified Thursday by South Central Public Health District.
“We are working with local health officials to monitor the situation, and at this time, the school will remain open and operating normally,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner wrote in a statement.
Whooping cough — also known as pertussis — is also affecting other Magic Valley communities. An outbreak was reported Monday at multiple Kimberly schools and it’s affecting Minidioka County schools, too.
Across south-central Idaho, 13 cases of whooping cough among children or adults have been reported since Jan. 1. Those are just cases confirmed by a medical provider or laboratory.
Three school districts have been affected: three students in Kimberly, one student in Twin Falls and two students in Minidoka County.
It’s hard to compare the number of cases with previous years because they ebb and flow, said Logan Hudson, nurse manager at South Central Public Health District. “It’s difficult with pertussis because it sort of cycles.”
In 2014, there were 53 cases reported here in south-central Idaho. But numbers dropped to just one case in 2016 and six last year.
“We know that (pertussis is) always in the community,” Hudson said. “It’s never not here. It’s whether cases are identified.”
Those diagnosed with pertussis suffer from coughing in “explosive bursts ending with the typical high-pitched whoop, and occasionally, vomiting,” according to the health district.
Coughing often continues for four to six weeks. Symptoms generally develop within two weeks of exposure. Pertussis is spread by contact with droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing.
Those affected can return to school after five days of antibiotic treatment.
In Twin Falls, Canyon Ridge High will send home letters to parents with information about the reported case of whooping cough.
School employees have been directed to be diligent about cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, Craner wrote in a statement, to help stop the spread of illnesses. Each of the school district’s 16 campuses also has a plan to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
The Minidoka County School District found out about its two confirmed cases of whooping cough — both at Minco High School in Rupert — a couple of weeks ago, Superintendent Ken Cox said.
Notices in English and Spanish were sent home to parents, he said. “This is something we take seriously. As soon as it was confirmed, we made sure parents were made aware of it.”
In Kimberly, students or school employees who exhibit symptoms of whooping cough will be required to go home, Kimberly School District Superintendent Luke Schroeder wrote in a Tuesday letter to staff and parents. They won’t be allowed to return to school without written documentation from a health care provider.
Twin Falls students who are coughing are also asked to stay home.
“In addition, with flu season in full swing we are urging caution for families and advise that everyone practice healthy habits like regular hand washing,” Craner wrote in the statement.
It’s extremely important for community members to know the difference between influenza — also known as the flu — and whooping cough, Hudson said. “Right now, we’re seeing both. It’s a stronger than usual influenza year, along with pertussis.”
“We want people to go to the doctor for any kind of cough illness, but pertussis tends to last a lot longer,” he said.
When you get the flu, it’s an acute illness that typically includes body aches, fatigue and a fever.
With whooping cough, patients tend to feel OK after the first few days between coughing fits and generally don’t have a fever, Hudson said. But the coughing can lead to trouble breathing and the illness lasts significantly longer than the flu.
South Central Public Health District recommends students and teachers should watch for symptoms and update their immunizations if they’re not current on the pertussis vaccine.
Children are required by state law to receive immunizations before entering preschool through 12th grade schools.
But parents can fill out a state exemption form if they choose not to immunize their child. They must cite a reason for their decision such as a philosophical, medical or religious objection.
Under state law, immunization requirements include four doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine for children born before Sept. 1, 1999 and five doses for children born after Sept. 1, 2005.
In addition, children entering seventh grade must receive one dose of DTaP.
For adults, the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention recommend one DTaP dose in their lifetime. The exception is pregnant women, who should receive one dose during every pregnancy.
Oftentimes, people will get a tetanus shot after sustaining a wound or cut, Hudson said, but it may not include the pertussis protection.