Fairfield student’s whooping cough diagnosis comes during increase in Butler County cases

Fairfield school officials this week alerted school parents whose children attend Fairfield West Elementary there is a confirmed case of whooping cough at the Butler County School.
Fairfield school officials this week alerted school parents whose children attend Fairfield West Elementary there is a confirmed case of whooping cough at the Butler County School.

Despite concern about a confirmed whooping cough case at a Butler County school, health officials said Wednesday they are not alarmed by the number of local cases of the sometimes-deadly disease.

Officials at Fairfield West Elementary sent a notice out to school parents on Monday saying there had been a confirmed case of whooping cough at the school.

Pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, is a childhood illness that all but disappeared in the 1940s after a vaccine was developed. But in recent decades, the illness has been making a comeback in some parts of the country.

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So far in 2019, there have been 18 cases reported countywide, said Bailer. That compares to 16 for all of last year and 25 in 2017, said Butler County Health Commissioner Jennifer Bailer.

In 2014, there were 41 cases of whooping cough in Butler County.

“While the 2019 numbers are up somewhat over 2018, other recent years have been far above 2018. I would not classify current 2019 numbers as alarming, so far,” Bailer said.

“The numbers are fairly close to what we usually see over time. That could certainly change over the rest of 2019, resulting in more or less than the average.”

Whooping cough can be deadly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal health officials describe the disease as “a very serious respiratory (in the lungs and breathing tubes) infection caused by the pertussis bacteria. It can cause violent coughing fits. Whooping cough is most harmful for young babies and can be deadly.”

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In 2012, the United States had the highest number of whooping cough cases in more than 50 years with 48,277 reported cases and 20 deaths. Most of the deaths occurred among infants, according to the CDCP.

The highly contagious respiratory illness is not always on the radar of doctors and can be mistaken for a cold and bronchitis.

The CDC recommends pertussis vaccines for people of all ages.

Fairfield West School Nurse Sue Shepard stated in the notice sent to parents that “pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose and cough, which may be mild at first.”

“The cough, which is worse at night, progresses to whooping in about one to two weeks and spells of coughing sometimes ends in vomiting,” Shepard wrote.

Immunization for pertussis is required by law for children six years or younger before enrolling in school with several exemptions.

A more detailed information sheet regarding whooping cough also was sent to school parents. Fairfield school officials said they have no reports of any other cases in the district.