John Muir Magnet School in Ashland, Oregon has one confirmed case of whooping cough otherwise known as Pertussis. The school sent out a letter to parents warning of a case of the potentially serious condition last Friday.
John Muir Magnet School has not released the name of the child with Pertussis or when the symptoms started. This has worried some local parents. SOU Student and mother Jean Whalen commented,“I think they should say when the child was diagnosed.” She continued, “the thing is that [notification of the whooping cough case] was just to John Muir School that wasn’t to the school district so I did not receive that letter.” Whalen says she’s concerned even though her child doesn’t attend Muir that he may have come in contact with Pertussis through after school programs.
While we cannot confirm that only John Muir Magnet School parents received notifications, we do know that not all Ashland School District parents were notified. John Muir Magnet School Principal Deirdre Pearson said because of, “the small period of exposure at school, the risk to others was so low that Belinda Brown, our district nurse, was advised by the Health Department that a general notification was not necessary; however, as a courtesy to our parents, Belinda sent out an informational letter.”
The whooping cough case may be particularly dangerous in John Muir Magnet School. Pertussis shots are on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) vaccination schedule, but in John Muir Magnet School 58.4 percent of children do not get all their scheduled shots. Although there is no evidence that the child who developed Pertussis did not receive their Pertussis vaccine, the risk of the disease spreading in John Muir Magnet School exceeds the national average. In 2013 only 4 states had higher than 5 percent of Kindergartners not vaccinated up to the CDC schedule.
Pertussis, which gained the name whooping cough from the whooping sounds sufferers get after coughing fits, is particularly harmful to babies. Between 2000 and 2012, 221 babies under 3 months old died from whooping cough.
Whether or not whooping cough will continue to spread in Ashland is unknown. Belinda Brown, the school nurse of John Muir Magnet School, recommended contacting the Jackson County Health Department or personal health care providers if parents see symptoms in their children.