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Immunizations

A nurse prepares five shots for a patient August 4, 2014, at St. Luke's Magic Valley in Twin Falls.

HAILEY — Several students in the Blaine County School District have been diagnosed with whooping cough, the public health district confirmed Dec. 14.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, often starts as a persistent cough that follows a cold. It usually comes in explosive bursts that end in a high-pitched whoop as the person catches their breath. People who are in close contact with someone who has pertussis are more likely to become ill, but there is a vaccine that can help protect against whooping cough.

“Pertussis is a very serious disease, especially for infants under the age of one,” South Central Public Health District Epidemiologist Tanis Maxwell said in a statement. “It’s important to watch for symptoms so you can get medicine right away and protect the rest of your family from the bacteria.”

SCPHD has seen 30 confirmed cases of whooping cough since Jan. 1, SCPHD spokeswoman Brianna Bodily said Friday. Of those, 12 were in Blaine County.

Heather Crocker, spokeswoman for the Blaine County School District, said Friday the school district will continue to monitor the situation. She said she doesn’t know which school campuses are affected.

The school district plans to share SCPHD’s letter about the whooping cough outbreak — as well as information about the school district’s response — with parents, staff and community members.

The school district has two school nurses, Crocker said. Also, “our custodians are going to be taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of germs.”

In September, the Wendell School District had the first confirmed case of whooping cough in south-central Idaho this school year.

There were likely other cases that hadn’t been reported, confirmed by a medical provider or laboratory, or where a patient was misdiagnosed, Bodily told the Times-News in September. “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.

Symptoms typically develop within one to two weeks after contacting someone who has whooping cough.

Children should receive the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine beginning at 2 months of age, the health district said. By the time they are in school, most children receive five doses of the vaccine.

The health district recommends a single dose of a similar vaccine, called TDaP, for people ages 11-64. Protection from the vaccine may decline throughout a person’s life. Older children and adults can get the disease even if they have been vaccinated.

Here is some more information the district provided about whooping cough:

Symptoms

Aside from a cough that can continue four to six weeks, pertussis can also cause vomiting. Symptoms can be less severe in older children and adults. People with a cough are contagious for three weeks if untreated — and for five days after treatment has begun.

How is it spread?

Pertussis is spread by contact with droplets in the air from coughing or sneezing

What do I do if I am showing symptoms?

If you or a loved one has a persistent cough, even if you have been immunized, the health district asks you to stay at home and consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Children with symptoms of pertussis should not attend school until seen by a doctor. Call your local public health district office or your physician before taking a child in for testing. Special arrangements can be made to prevent spread to others at the time of testing.

How can I get the vaccine?

SCPHD has pertussis immunizations available for babies, adolescents and adults. Immunizations are available by appointment at all SCPHD offices in:

Bellevue: 788-4335

Gooding: 934-4477

Jerome: 324-8838

Mini-Cassia: 678-8221

Twin Falls: 737-5966

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