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Health officials warn of pertussis outbreak in Park City

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PARK CITY — The Summit County Health Department is alerting parents about a pertussis outbreak.

Parents with kids in the Park City School District recently received a letter or an email about the health concern, which included facts about the highly contagious respiratory infection.

“I’m getting a lot of phone calls from concerned parents,” said Carolyn Rose, the health department’s nursing director.

Rose said three elementary school-age children initially tested positive for whooping cough last week. That number had grown to 11 Wednesday, she said, and parents are concerned because the kids who were infected were fully vaccinated.

“Parents are wondering, why is my child getting pertussis when I’ve had the immunization?” Rose said.

The problem lies in the fact that pertussis vaccine protection starts to wane five or more years after the first dose.

“The current pertussis vaccine is not as protective as we would really like it to be," Rose said. "However, it’s the only thing right now to help protect babies from getting pertussis and being in the hospital and possibly dying.”

Still, Rose is thanking parents who vaccinate their children because the infected kids aren’t experiencing coughing attacks typical of whooping cough and have milder symptoms, like a simple cold.

What is pertussis?

"Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.

"Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths which result in a "whooping" sound."

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“If they didn’t have the vaccination, they would probably all be really ill,” she said.

Sixty kids have been tested, but most don’t have pertussis.

“That’s really proof that the vaccine does work and it works in most kids,” Rose said.

Laurie Shea, whose daughter attends Parley’s Park Elementary School, said she received the email about the outbreak Wednesday morning.

“It was a little concerning just because there’s been so many illness going around” Shea said.

She said she didn't know anyone who has tested positive for pertussis, but she plans to ask around.

Health officials said there could be more cases they’re not aware of, but they typically see pertussis outbreaks in children ages 4 to 5, before the booster for kindergarten; and in grades five to six, before the booster for seventh grade.

They said adults should have at least one booster vaccine.

Rose recommends that parents with any concerns contact their physician or call the Summit County Health Department at 435-333-1500.

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Sandra Yi


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