High School Student in Oakley Being Treated for Whooping Cough

School officials in Oakley are warning parents that high school students might have been exposed to whooping cough.

Freedom High School notified parents on Monday that one student is being treated for pertussis.

Principal Kelly Manke says privacy rules prevent her from saying whether the student was vaccinated against the disease, which is treated with antibiotics but can be dangerous for small babies.

The DTAP vaccine protects against pertussis in children, but multiple doses over several years are required and the vaccine can lose effectiveness over time. Pediatricians recommend that childcare workers, pregnant women, and new parents get a booster shot of the Tdap vaccine.

"There are some vaccines where you do need a boost. Whooping cough is one of them and tetanus is another. That's why at 11-12 years of age, most kids will get this Tdap or whooping cough booster. It'll give them a boost with these vaccines that they probably haven't received since kindergarten," said Contra Costa Health Services Immunization Coordinator Paul Leung.

Leung says this most recent high school case is a reminder that whooping cough is present in the community.

"This person just happens to be a student at a school. Pertussis or whooping cough can make anyone sick. It can be in the community so that's why it's important for community members to make sure they're up-to-date with their vaccines, including the whooping cough booster," he said.

Public health officials say there were 181 whooping cough cases in the county last year, and 17 since the beginning of the year.

Manke says the school district makes sure middle school students get their booster shots.

"At our school, it's unusual to have a case of (whooping cough) and unusual to have someone not vaccinated on purpose," Manke said.

Records from the California Department of Public Health show the two middle schools that feed students to Freedom High have immunization rates of at least 98 percent, with less than 2 percent of students filing for "personal belief exemptions."

Leung says that's enough to provide "herd immunity" or "community immunity," and stop communicable diseases like pertussis from spreading to immuno-compromised people who can't get vaccinated and infants who haven't gotten their shots yet.

California passed the most stringent vaccination law in the country last year. SB277 requires all banned "personal belief exemptions," so all school children will have to be vaccinated before attending school unless a physician writes a medical exemption.

The law went into effect this year, but schools aren't enforcing the new rules until September, when students enroll for the 2016-2017 school year.

Check vaccination rates at schools and childcare facilities in Contra Costa Co. here and across the state here.

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