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Whooping Cough Cases Rising in Ossining Schools

OSSINING, N.Y. – With two new cases of whooping cough in the last two weeks at Ossining’s AMD Middle School , district officials are reaching out to parents to prevent an outbreak.

Health officials with the Ossining School District recently sent out two e-mail blasts advising parents to make sure their children are vaccinated to prevent whooping cough, or pertussis. The bacterial infection, which can at first appear to mimic the common cold, is highly contagious and can cause severe coughing that can last for weeks or months at a time, according to representatives with the Westchester County Department of Health .

The number of cases of pertussis has more than tripled since 2009 when 20 cases were reported throughout Westchester County, according to DOH statistics . There were 43 cases reported in 2011 and 64 cases reported through May 15, 2012.

“There has been an increase in the number of school-age children who have had pertussis, and we have been monitoring it and working with school districts as these cases occur. We believe the increase is due to waning immunity,” said Caren Halbfinger, director of public health information with the Westchester County DOH, in an e-mailed statement. “We recommend all adults receive a Tdap booster to protect themselves, their families and any young infants around them who are not yet fully immunized.”

Halbfinger noted that the increase stresses the importance of making sure children have received all of their vaccines.

“We also suggest parents review their child’s immunization records to ensure their childhood vaccines are up to date and to check with their pediatrician about whether they have had the recommended Tdap booster given at age 11 and up,” she said.

Ossining School District officials and the DOH have partnered to inform parents and children of the symptoms and causes of whooping cough, as well as guidelines for making sure students are immunized.

“While the health department advises us that the risk of illness is relatively low for those who are completely vaccinated, if you or your child develops any of these symptoms or you have any additional concerns, please contact your family physician as soon as possible and advise him/her that there has been a case of pertussis in your or your child’s school,” said Ossining school nurse Dianne Thomas in an e-mailed letter to parents. “The CDC, New York State and Westchester County departments of health recommend that all children receive five doses of a pertussis-containing vaccine by kindergarten entry, and that all individuals 10 years of age and older, including teachers and staff, receive another booster with a different pertussis-containing vaccine.”

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