District 200 officials have discovered a third case of pertussis, or whooping cough, at Oak Park and River Forest High School in two weeks, prompting them to take extra precautions.
“Because this is our third case of pertussis in two weeks, our buildings and grounds staff are diligently performing extra sweeps to clean and sanitize the building,” Gwen Walker-Qualls, D200’s senior director of pupil personnel services, said in an email that went out to families on Wednesday morning.
So far, two students and an adult have been diagnosed with the infection, which affects a person’s airwaves and is highly contagious. The infection spreads “from person to person by coughing or sneezing,” Walker-Qualls explained in another letter to families that outlines precautions they should take in the event of a whooping cough diagnosis.
“Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be very dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems,” the letter states. “Family members with pertussis, especially mothers, can spread pertussis to newborns.”
District officials recommend that if a child has a cough, parents should keep them home from school and activities. If a doctor says that they have a weakened immune system, parents should ask the physician to prescribe antibiotics as soon as possible to prevent whooping cough.
If a child is diagnosed with whooping cough by their doctor, parents should notify the school and request a doctor’s note stating that the child has the infection.
If a student has gotten DTaP, the childhood vaccine against whooping cough, parents should know that the vaccine’s potency “decreases over time,” Walker-Qualls explained. “Older children and adults, including pregnant women, should get a pertussis booster shot called ‘Tdap’ to protect themselves and infants near or around them. If you need the Tdap vaccine, contact your doctor or call the Oak Park Public Health Department at (708) 358-5480 to find a vaccine provider near you.”