School dealing with pertussis outbreak


URBANA — The whooping cough took five students out of school. It’s been going on for the past couple weeks, but University Laboratory High School is doing its best to stop the spread.

CUPHD is working closely with school officials to monitor students and contain the spread. So far, it’s only affected a few students and they’re looking to keep that number low.

The first sign is persistent coughing, then come cold-like symptoms. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly-contagious respiratory infection. It starts with one person and can spread with one touch.

“Since we’ve been back from spring break, we’ve had four additional cases.”

It makes five students total, all with the same symptoms and all sent home from school. But, Uni is working closely with CUPHD to make sure kids and parents know how to prevent it from spreading.

“Our goal, in working with the director at the school, is just to make sure that we identify any additional cases, we make sure that we get them tested and treated and make sure they’re isolated for the appropriate amount of time.”

Brown is a communicable disease investigator. She says pertussis can thrive in a school environment where kids are in constant contact.

“People are coughing, sneezing, touching things. If they’re not washing their hands, definitely that can spread to other students very quickly.”

If they test positive, the student is required to stay home for five days while taking antibiotics. Director Jeff Walkington says the school is doing all it can to contain the disease, including a deep cleaning.

“We also have disinfected the entire building so anything that hands can touch, chairs, desks, stair railings, anything like that has been disinfected.”

Whooping cough can be be prevented with a vaccination.

“We require a whole list of vaccinations when you first come to the school and pertussis is one of those.”

But sometimes, even that can’t prevent it.

“There’s no vaccine that’s 100% effective. With some people that get vaccinated, they don’t self-convert which means they don’t build up immunity to that disease.”

The school continues reporting all new cases to the health department with the hopes of stopping the spread soon.

“It’s extremely important for us to keep our students healthy and have them at school and have them keep up with their work.”

While most students have been cleared to go back to school, another case was reported to the health department just two days ago. If you think you have it, see a doctor immediately.

The last outbreak in Champaign County was at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School, in 2012, and took 30 students out of school.

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