Students throughout Inyo County will soon be getting mandatory vaccines in response to what state health officials are calling the worst outbreak of whooping cough in five decades.
According to Inyo-Mono Public Health Officer Dr. Richard Johnson, California experienced the most cases of Pertussis – whooping cough – in 2010 than it has seen in 52 years.
Johnson noted that, as in the rest of the state, Inyo County “had several cases” of Pertussis among school-age children.
Inyo County Clinical Services Director Tamara Cohn said that there were eight reported cases of whooping cough last year, four in school-aged children and four in children ages 4 and under.
“Pertussis surfaces and spikes every several years, and we’re putting a lot of leg work into trying to get a hold on this,” Cohn said.
Health and Human Services is going so far as to send notices home to classmates of any student who is diagnosed with Pertussis to ensure that parents know their student has been exposed.
According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, it takes 3-12 days after exposure for signs and symptoms of whooping cough to appear.
These signs and symptoms, as listed on mayoclinic.com, include:
• Runny nose
• Nasal congestion
• Red, watery eyes
• A mild fever
• Dry cough
The website states that after a week or two, signs and symptoms worsen. Severe and prolonged coughing attacks may:
• Bring up thick phlegm
• Provoke vomiting
• Result in a red or blue face
• Cause extreme fatigue
• End with a high-pitched “whoop” sound during the next breath of air
Those who have been exposed to the disease can receive antibiotics to protect them in the short-term, but Cohn said it is important that all students receive the vaccination to protect themselves in the long-term.
To help stop the spread of whooping cough, the California Department of Public Health has mandated that all youth entering grades 7-12 this coming fall will need to get the Pertussis/Tetanus vaccination – called the Tdap. Proof of the vaccination will have to be provided to the school before the start of the 2011-12 school year.
Parents who have already had their students vaccinated with the Tdap will similarly need to show proof that the shot was administered.
Johnson urges parents to speak to their children’s physicians about the Tdap, or to bring them to one of several public health clinics being held throughout March.
Inyo County Health and Human Services will be administering the Tdap at a cost of $3 per vaccine on the following schedule:
• Thursday, March 10: 3-6 p.m., in Big Pine at Big Pine Town Hall
• Tuesday, March 15: 3-7 p.m., in Bishop at the Bishop Senior Center
• Tuesday, March 22: 3-7 p.m., in Bishop at the Bishop Senior Center
• Wednesday, March 23: 3-6 p.m., in Lone Pine at Statham Hall
• Thursday, March 31: 3-5 p.m., in Lone Pine at the Lone Pine Health Department
Parents are asked to bring their students’ yellow vaccine records. For more information, call Inyo County Public Health at (760) 873-7868.