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Whooping cough case suspected at Berea school

BEREA — A letter was sent home Tuesday with Shannon Johnson Elementary School students to inform parents that officials are investigating a potential case of whooping cough.

The Madison County Health Department informed the school district Tuesday of the investigation. The student, who was not identified, was not in school Tuesday, said Madison County Schools spokeswoman Erin Stewart.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a contagious, bacterial disease that is spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Children typically receive a vaccine for whooping cough that comes in the same shot as diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.

The disease begins with cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and cough, according to the CDC. It progresses to uncontrolled coughing spells and a whooping noise in young children when they breathe in. Adults, teens and vaccinated children usually have milder symptoms that mimic bronchitis or asthma. The disease is treated with antibiotics, but can be dangerous for infants or people with illnesses such as lung disease.

District School Nurse Coordinator Becky Carr called parents of students who were in close contact with the infected child, Stewart said. The CDC recommends preventative antibiotics for anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has whooping cough.

The Madison County Health Department advised parents to check with their doctors to see if their child's immunizations are up-to-date, according to a news release from Madison County Schools. The department also advised parents to take their children to the doctor if they are exhibiting signs of whooping cough and keep ill children away from activities in which any illness could be spread.