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Whooping cough plagues Kittitas

Sun., March 15, 2009, midnight

Secondary school cancels activities after 21 cases found

KITTITAS, Wash. – Whooping cough is shutting down school activities at Kittitas Secondary School through April 1, public health officials said Friday.

Field trips and activities that include other schools are being postponed as a precautionary measure to help prevent the spread of pertussis, which can be severe in children under age 1 and in pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.

The outbreak is believed to have come from students’ exposure at a wrestling event last month at the Tacoma Dome.

Although more than 80 wrestlers from Yakima County schools attended the event, no cases have been reported yet to the Yakima Health District, officials said.

One adult was diagnosed with pertussis earlier in the week, said Marianne Patnode, communicable disease services coordinator, but it was not connected to the Tacoma Dome.

In Kittitas, sports practices for school students and staff that are held at the school will not be affected. But if another school is involved, the events will be postponed.

As of March 12, there have been 24 cases of pertussis in Kittitas County; 21 of these cases have been Kittitas Secondary School students or staff members.

More than 150 Kittitas County residents have been tested for pertussis since the outbreak; about 115 of the tests have been negative and about 35 tests are still pending.

Health officials say if you or a family member have any symptoms of pertussis – persistent cough, cold symptoms – avoid group activities such as work, school, church and social events.

The cough is distinguished by a high pitched “whoop” when inhaling. Sometimes the only symptom may be a persistent cough, often worse at night. Between bursts of coughing, a patient may appear well.


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