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Dec 8, 2011 12:24 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Whooping Cough Confirmed In Student At Southampton Elementary School

Dec 14, 2011 9:04 AM

There have been no additional reports of whooping cough at Southampton Elementary School following one confirmed case in a student there last week, Superintendent of Schools Dr. J. Richard Boyes said on Tuesday.

District parents had been asked to watch for signs of the highly contagious bacterial respiratory illness, also known as pertussis, in their children, after the child’s pediatrician confirmed on December 7 that he had contracted the disease.

Dr. Boyes said daily student attendance levels have remained normal, about 95 to 96 percent, as has staff attendance. Several students and staffers were swabbed for pertussis, he added. He could not say whether the student who had whopping cough has returned to school, noting that the school nurse, Rebecca Capatosto, had not mentioned that to him.

The superintendent said the district became aware of the case at about 2 p.m. last Wednesday, December 7, when Ms. Capatosto, received a call from the student’s doctor confirming that the student had the disease.

The student, who is not being identified, was picked up from the school by a parent. Dr. Boyes said the district alerted the Suffolk County Department of Health Services—which monitors cases of contagious illnesses like whooping cough—and wiped down surfaces with a disinfectant, a customary cleaning procedure.

Whooping cough is spread through the air by the cough of an infected person and is particularly dangerous and can be fatal to infants who are not fully immunized.

“You will note that you need not do anything at this point but simply watch your child carefully for any symptoms,” Dr. Boyes said in a letter distributed to parents the day of the confirmed case. “If any symptoms present, you should contact your child’s health provider for instructions regarding treatment at home until your child is cleared to return to school.”

There are three stages of whooping cough, according to the county.

Mild, upper respiratory symptoms, possible low-grade fever and a slight cough lasting one to two weeks marks the first stage of symptoms. The second stage, which may last up to six weeks, involves spasmodic coughing episodes sometimes followed by long whooping sounds, vomiting or gagging, as well as facial color changes. The final stage is described as gradual recovery and may include coughing episodes that persist for weeks to months. Coughing episodes may return with other respiratory infections or exercise.

A person with whooping cough is infectious for 21 days from the start of the cough or until he or she has been on antibiotics for five days, according to the county. Even though children must be vaccinated for pertussis before they start school, the vaccine is only about 80 percent effective and wanes over time, according to Grace Kelly-McGovern, a county health department spokeswoman.

Suffolk County has reported an increase in the number of cases of whooping cough this year compared to recent years. There were 179 reported cases so far this year, compared to 54 last year and 75 the year before.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have attributed the increase in cases to waning immunity from childhood vaccines, increased recognition of the disease and better diagnostic testing and increased reporting.

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While I see wanting to respect the privacy of the child, as a parent of two small children in the school I think I should have the right to know just how close this child was to mine. Its just scary my kids are vaccinate and the Dr said they still have a 15% chance of getting this.
By Crankypants (34), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 8, 11 3:21 PM
Do you want to know how many feet and inches and at what time? Lets be real here this has been spreading around Long Island for several weeks the childred of Southampton are not immune. Great job by the nursing staff to be on top of things.
By maxwell (169), speonk on Dec 8, 11 3:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
the nursing staff didnt do anything except recieve a call from an outside doctor, and than relayed the message to the proper authorities. It's not like a school nurse diagnosed the child from her office, or began vaccinating other children when the news broke.
By AlwaysLocal (292), southampton on Dec 8, 11 8:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
yeah if you can get me all that then thanks buddy
By Crankypants (34), SOUTHAMPTON on Dec 8, 11 3:33 PM
Get your kids vaccinated people! There's a reason scientists who are much, much smarter than you spent years of their lives developing them. Don't let your false sense of intelligence harm other people.
By johnj (1019), Westhampton on Dec 8, 11 3:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
The vaccine's effectiveness wanes over time -- entirely likely that this child WAS vaccinated.
By Dafsgirl (64), Southampton on Dec 8, 11 6:40 PM
Knowing a student was infected should be enough information. Specific names are unnessary. If your child is a student at the school just assume they were in close contact sometime in the past few weeks.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Dec 8, 11 4:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
We are beginning to see a lot of these diseases we had under control again. John 35 is absolutely correct. VACCINATE!!!
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Dec 8, 11 5:28 PM