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Students in Mount Vernon schools recovering after whooping cough outbreak

Some students in the Mount Vernon Community School District are recovering from a small whooping cough outbreak that started in late October (Randy Dircks/KCRG)
Some students in the Mount Vernon Community School District are recovering from a small whooping cough outbreak that started in late October (Randy Dircks/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 6:53 PM CST
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Some students in Mount Vernon Schools are recovering after a weeks-long outbreak of pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

Superintendent Greg Batenhorst said he first became aware of the outbreak in later October. Since then, there have been nearly two dozen students diagnosed. School officials are only aware of a few current active cases.

“Once we became aware, obviously our first contact was with Linn County Public Health, talking with them through the proper guidelines, then getting the students on the proper medications and then being out for a five day period,” Batenhorst said.

A Linn County Public Health official said whooping cough is a vaccine-preventable disease in the respiratory system. It can easily be spread through close contact in schools when sneezing or coughing.

All students diagnosed with whooping cough in Mount Vernon had previously received preventative vaccination, but health officials said they are not always 100 percent effective.

“Kids that are very young are vaccinated against whooping cough, but what we know that it can wane over time, so the effectiveness of the vaccine wanes. In seventh grade we boost them all up, give them that protection again, but again we know that it may wane over time,” Heather Meador, with Linn County Public Health, said.

Batenhorst said the Mount Vernon school district followed all the necessary procedures to ensure more students or staff were not infected.

Meador said anyone diagnosed should be treated with a five-day course of antibiotics before returning to school or work. Those without treatment should stay isolated for 21 days when they are no longer contiguous.

“For anyone that is diagnosed with whooping cough, we do follow-up with that family, find out who those close contacts are and then we work to make sure anyone that may need to have prophylactic treatment is taken care of and gets the treatment,” Meador said.

Meador also said the Mount Vernon outbreak was isolated, and she is not aware of it being a problem in other parts of the state.

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