The impending winter and its falling temperatures are spreading more than just holiday cheer.
Along with the expected rise of community illness during flu season, Jamestown Public Schools is also taking preventative measures against pertussis, or whooping cough. According to Mike McElrath, principal of Jamestown High School, there have been reported cases of whooping cough among the student body.
"(The steps taken by JHS) are precautionary," said McElrath. "Lately, we've been dealing with whooping cough so we want to keep the parents informed. We don't really see whooping cough that much, so we're just erring on the side of caution."
Last week, McElrath had sent a notice through JPS' phone network, Global Connect, that parents would receive a letter that was sent out to the student body, containing information about whooping cough. The letter references the symptoms that parents might see in their children as well as how the illness progresses.
"Our recommendation is for parents to contact their own primary care physician so they can determine the best procedures to take with their kids," said McElrath.
Students who arrive to school ill or become ill while in school are sent to the school nurses, who will contact and work directly with the student's physician.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes an uncontrollable, violent cough that can last for weeks or months. It may begin with cold-like symptoms or a dry cough that progresses to episodes of severe coughing. It can occur at any age in those not vaccinated.
A statement regarding the rising cases of pertussis in Chautauqua County has been made by the Chautauqua County Department of Health. It states the county has seen 52 cases of whooping cough since late March, with most of the confirmed cases coming in the southern part of the county.
"Exposures from one case can be wide spread in a school setting including sporting events," the release states.
The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. The pertussis vaccine is routinely given to children at 2, 4, 6, and 12 to 15 months of age, and then between 4 and 6 years of age. Since immunity can fade over time, periodic "booster" doses are needed by adolescents and adults to keep immunity strong. Parents with children less than 7 years of age who have not been completely immunized against pertussis, particularly infants under one year, should talk to their child's doctor about the benefits of vaccination. Students entering the sixth grade in New York State are required to receive one booster dose of pertussis.
Adults of any age, especially if they are in contact with infants younger than age 12 month, such as parents, grandparents and childcare providers, who have not received a dose of Tdap are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. Pregnant women, preferably after 20 weeks' gestation and healthcare personnel of all ages should be vaccinated against pertussis.
"People who have pertussis should stay away from young children and infants until five days of antibiotic treatment," the release states. "Children should stay out of school until five days after treatment begins. All close contacts of a case of pertussis should be tested and treated or given antibiotics as a preventative measure."