Whooping cough cases cause one Northland school district to cancel classesAfter enduring absentee rates of 25 percent to almost 33 percent for days, the South Shore school district administrator decided it was time to close down for a few days. The culprit, Clendon Gustafson said: whooping cough.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
After enduring absentee rates of 25 percent to almost 33 percent for days, the South Shore school district administrator decided it was time to close down for a few days.
The culprit, Clendon Gustafson said: whooping cough.
“We’ve had 52 kids — and we only have 150 kids attending — 52 kids have been treated for whooping cough at this point,” said Gustafson, who serves as administrator of the single-building school system in Port Wing - in Bayfield County, Wis. - and principal of the middle and high school. “The kids that are here, a lot of them are coughing and hacking almost uncontrollably, too.”
The outbreak in the South Shore district is part of a larger outbreak that has been affecting Northwestern Wisconsin this winter. In January, nine students in the Ashland school district and one adult had whooping cough, and four other “suspect” cases were being watched.
The decision at South Shore to close was made late on Tuesday as the school received even more whooping-cough reports, Gustafson said. But it was decided to hold classes on Wednesday and then close the school until next Tuesday. All activities were canceled as well, including parent-teacher conferences.
However, most of that time would have been a long weekend anyway, Gustafson said, with an in-service day scheduled for Friday and the Presidents Day holiday.
Even Thursday was only scheduled as a half-day, so that’s all of the instructional time that will be lost.
Gustafson said he hopes that will be enough.
“We’ll have five straight days with kids away from the building,” he said. “And that’s what many of the physicians say when they’re calling in is they want the kids away for five days. In fact, whole families have been quarantined … in our district.”
The building will be sanitized while the students are away, he said.
The absentee rate has been high for the past couple of weeks, Gustafson said. Faculty and staff have been largely unaffected.
Whooping cough, clinically known as pertussis, is an extremely contagious bacterial disease that brings on uncontrollable coughing and can make it hard to breathe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends five doses of DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine by the time a child is 6. A booster in the form of Tdap (tetanus-diptheria vaccine with protection against pertussis) is recommended at age 11 or 12.
Cyndi Zach, public health administrator for Ashland County, said some of the teens who came down with whooping cough in the Ashland schools hadn’t gotten the Tdap booster.