Health officials worry whooping cough outbreak in schools could continue into summer

Pertussis 'whooping cough' rates have reduces 89 percent since the vaccination became available Source: Lane County Public Health

Kate Schwartz watches as her two young children enjoy a local park in Eugene.

But with the recent outbreak of pertussis, she feels a sense of worry.

"Of course I don't want my kids to get sick," Schwartz said. "When you go out to parks and various places, you potentially are getting exposed to those things and you can't control that," Schwartz said.

According to Lane County Public Health officials cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, have been reported 149 times in the past few months at county schools.

"My child had been getting his vaccination, so I didn't know if I need to continue to worry as much," Schwartz said.

Cindy Morgan , a nursing supervisor with public health, said that vaccination is the best way to prevent contracting whooping cough. However, the outbreak at local school revealed that many children were not up to date on their vaccinations.

"In an outbreak situation your child can be excluded from school if the outbreak is one of the diseases that your child is not vaccinated against," Morgan said.

With school ending in mid June, Morgan worries what will happen when kids leave their classrooms and transition to summer programs and camps.

"We don't have jurisdiction over those camps," Morgan said. "But we are preparing to get the word out to sponsors of the different camps."

The Boys & Girls club of the Emerald Valley is one of the summer programs hoping to get more information from health officials.

The summer program does not have access to vaccination records of the kids who will be attending the program.

CEO Aaron Haack said that in addition to promoting good hygiene among the kids, they plan on offering parents information on symptoms, treatment and vaccinations.

"We always try to provide as much information to parents and they do with it what they will," Haack said.

Haack adding that if staff notices a child is showing symptoms of whooping cough, they will be asked to stay home.

"It's really tough on the parent though because then they might have to take off work," Haack said. "But the biggest thing is we want the safety of the community and not to spread it."

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