Dear Harriton families,
Since our notification to Harriton families on December 15th about pertussis, we have received confirmation from the Montgomery County Health Department of two additional cases. Two of the students are in 10th grade and one is in 12th grade. Please review the following information about pertussis and the fact sheet from the Health Department.
- Pertussis can occur in individuals who have been immunized (vaccinated). Immunization is effective in preventing serious illness from pertussis. Immunized individuals who have been exposed to pertussis may develop the disease when their immunity wanes. Pertussis outbreaks have been occurring in many communities in recent years. We have had cases in Lower Merion School District every year for the last several years. These cases have occurred in students who have been immunized.
- Students and adults who are immunized for pertussis usually do not get severe illness if they contract pertussis. They often have a mild version of the illness and may not suspect pertussis. Even mildly ill people with pertussis can transmit the disease unknowingly to others who are in danger of very serious illness. At highest risk for severe illness and even death are babies. Also at higher risk are the unvaccinated, those who have serious health issues and immunocompromised individuals.
- Pertussis is considered a reportable communicable disease. Positive lab results must be reported to the local health department by the health care provider. The Montgomery County Health Department notifies us of confirmed cases and provides guidance and direction.
- Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. Individuals diagnosed with pertussis and prescribed antibiotics are contagious for the first 5 days of antibiotic treatment. Family members or others living with the infected individual are usually treated as well. Students and staff under treatment for pertussis have a mandatory exclusion period from work or school for 5 full days of antibiotics. The health care provider may order other medications in addition to antibiotics. Most cases of pertussis will resolve eventually without treatment however infected persons will transmit the disease for 21 days if not treated. Even after treatment with antibiotics, cough from pertussis may linger for some time.
- Pertussis is highly contagious. Bacteria are spread by inhaling infected droplets of a coughing or sneezing person or by direct contact with discharges from a runny nose. Although it is far less likely to contract pertussis through contact with inanimate objects and surfaces, our custodial department continues to clean surfaces with a product effective against pertussis and other communicable diseases.
- Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 5 to 10 days after exposure but may take up to 3 weeks. Cold symptoms usually occur before the cough. Immunized (vaccinated) individuals may not develop the characteristic cough ("whoop").
We encourage you to contact your health care provider if your child has cold symptoms that include a cough, even if your child has been immunized for pertussis. If your health care provider suspects pertussis, the Montgomery County Health Department recommends keeping your child at home until lab results are back. Many health care providers are using the PCR nasopharyngeal swab to diagnose pertussis. Results of this test are usually available in about 48 hours and are considered very reliable. Individuals who are diagnosed with pertussis are mandated by the Health Department to stay home from school for five days while undergoing antibiotic treatment.
We encourage parents/guardians of children who are immunocompromised or who have serious or chronic illnesses to contact their health care providers to discuss the recent occurrence of pertussis in the community. Your health care provider can provide guidance and recommendations about your child's unique health issues.
We are in regular contact with the Montgomery County Health Department and follow their directives regarding communicable illness. The Health Department will continue to communicate with area health care providers, school health staff and with families about pertussis.
Immunization (vaccination) recommendations:
- If your child is under the age of 7 years and has not received the full recommended vaccination series (DTaP at 2, 4 and 6 months, first booster at 15 -18 months and second booster at 4 - 6 years), please contact your pediatrician and complete the vaccination schedule.
- Children ages 7 -10 who have not received the full recommended vaccination series should receive a dose of Tdap at the earliest opportunity.
- Persons between the ages of 11 and 64 who have not received a previous dose of Tdap vaccine should receive a single dose. No minimum interval since a previous dose of Td needs to be observed.
- Persons aged 65 and older may also receive a single dose of Tdap vaccine, as directed by their primary care physician.
For additional information about pertussis, please click here for a Fact Sheet provided by the Montgomery County Health Department. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call your health care provider or the Montgomery County Health Department, the Division of Communicable Disease Control at (610) 278-5117. You may also call the School Nurse at 610 658-3977 or LMSD Health Services Office at 610 645-1829.
Terry Quinlan-Clampffer MEd, MA, RN, CSN
Lead Supervisor of School Health and Student Safety