Columbia parents should watch their children for signs of whooping cough as three cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, have been confirmed at Ridgeway Elementary School, and there is a fourth probable case at another Columbia school.
Symptoms often mimic a cold, slight fever and coughing fits that end in a “seal-like,” barking sound, said Geni Alexander, the Columbia/Boone County Health Department’s public information specialist.
“We want parents to recognize (their child’s symptoms), keep them home from school or day care” and seek treatment from their doctor, Alexander said. “That’s the best way to contain the spread of this.”
She said there were 12 reported cases of whooping cough this year in Boone County: eight in the past three weeks and four unrelated cases from earlier this year. In 2007, the county had seven cases.
Lynn Barnett, Columbia Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for student support services, estimated the school cases began three or four weeks ago. After the three cases were reported, the district sent a letter on Nov. 25 notifying parents. The letter contained information from the health department.
Alexander said that information wasn’t meant to worry parents, but to help them catch symptoms earlier to prevent the spread of infection through close contact.
Children in Missouri must be immunized against pertussis at 2, 4, 6 and 15 months old and before entering school at 4 or 6 years old, but immunity can weaken over time. Alexander said children can get immunization boosters from the health department or their physician. Booster immunizations are not required by the state.
A sharp increase in whooping cough has also been seen in St. Louis County, which has reported more than 140 cases of whooping cough so far this year. In 2007, there were eight cases.
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department recommends parents watch their children for symptoms that include a "seal-like" cough and keep infected kids home from school or day care.