Five cases of whooping cough have now been reported within the last week in Santa Clarita school districts.
As of Friday, officials with Valencia High School, Saugus High School, La Mesa Junior High School, James Foster Elementary School and West Creek Academy each reported a case of pertussis, or whooping cough, since Monday.
“After being notified early in the week of potential pertussis at two of our schools, we followed the prescribed protocol of notifying families of the potential exposure on Tuesday and following our protocols for health office referrals,” said Superintendent Colleen Hawkins of the Saugus Union School District. “In all cases we require a medical evaluation before the student can return to school.”
Hawkins said the illness is difficult to prevent when unknown, and the district makes every effort to prevent it when known. In addition, James Foster and West Creek Academy classrooms were cleaned to ensure that surfaces were wiped down to avoid spread of germs.
Sulphur Springs Union School District and Castaic Union School District officials said there have been no cases of whooping cough reported recently.
Rio Norte Junior High School reported a case of whooping cough to parents Sept. 10, and two cases were reported at Meadows Elementary and two and Valencia Valley over two weeks ago, according to officials.
“Whooping cough has been on the rise around the country,” said Danielle Ewing, a Newhall School District nurse. “The current vaccine is not perfect and the bacteria strains are mutating, which makes the vaccine less perfect. Currently the vaccine is 80-90% effective when given on schedule. Immunity wanes with this particular disease, further contributing to the gaps in immunity.”
Parents should still have their children vaccinated because “the 80-90% coverage is better than 0% coverage,” Ewing said.
“Plus, people who are vaccinated tend to have more mild symptoms than a person who is not vaccinated,” said Ewing. “The best prevention is getting vaccinated, washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick.”
Officials have released information to parents at the individual school sites saying that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health had informed them of the reports, and informing them what to do if a child begins exempting symptoms.
Whooping cough spreads from a cough or sneeze, and looks like a cold that continually gets worse, eventually becoming coughing attacks that last several seconds.
“As the person catches his or her breath at the end of each coughing attack, they may make a ‘whoop’ sound, vomit or choke,” said a news release sent out to Saugus parents on Tuesday. “It can cause serious illness, leading to hospital stays and even death, especially in infants less than 6 months old.”
Any parents who have concerns over a possible diagnosis at their school can contact Julie Garcia, public health nurse at Antelope Valley Health Center, at 661-287-7043.