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Flu season

A physician demonstrates how to administer the flu vaccination in January at St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center in Twin Falls. 

WENDELL — A student in the Wendell School District has been diagnosed with pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and it’s the first case of the school year in south-central Idaho.

Superintendent Tim Perrigot sent a letter Sept. 18 to parents with information about whooping cough and urging them to check that their children are up to date with vaccinations.

South Central Public Health District confirmed Sept. 19 there is a case of whooping cough in the Wendell School District. But SCPHD isn’t releasing the school or grade level of the student affected in order to protect identifying student information, district spokeswoman Brianna Bodily said.

There are likely other cases that haven’t been reported, haven’t been confirmed yet by a medical provider or laboratory, or where a patient has been misdiagnosed, Bodily said.

“Whenever we see one case, we expect there to be more in a community,” she said.

It’s not considered an outbreak until there are two or more cases in the same school district, she said.

SCPHD has received 37 confirmed cases of whooping cough this year. Of those, 22 were between Jan. 1 and March 17.

Whooping cough is a respiratory infection, Bodily said, so it spreads quickly. “It’s really important to get the vaccination to protect people around you.”

It’s also crucial, she said, to keep people home if you’re concerned about symptoms that could be whooping cough and to get tested as soon as possible.

Those diagnosed with whooping cough typically suffer from coughing in “explosive bursts ending with the typical high-pitched whoop, and occasionally, vomiting,” according to information in a letter from SCPHD.

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.

DTaP is the vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has data on its website about what percentage of students at Idaho schools are adequately immunized and have received specific vaccinations.

At Wendell Elementary School for the 2016-17 school year — the most recent school-level data available — 79.3 percent of students were adequately immunized. Specifically for DTaP, 85.6 percent of students had received the vaccine.

The immunization rate was higher for Wendell Middle School: 87.5 percent adequately immunized and 97.5 percent had received the DTaP vaccine.

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