Whooping cough hits Columbia schools

The airborne disease, found at Ridgeway, has many parents on alert.
Friday, September 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:55 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

Judy Snyder had a message on her answering machine Wednesday afternoon informing her that a case of pertussis, or whooping cough, had been reported in her son’s kindergarten and first-grade class at Ridgeway Elementary School.

In addition to the phone call, Snyder’s son, Alexander, brought home a letter from the school with information on the symptoms and recommended treatment for whooping cough.

Two different forms of the letter were sent home with students, said Susan Fales, principal of Ridgeway Elementary.

One letter went to those who were in close contact with the infected student, such as classmates like Snyder’s son and those on the same bus route. Another letter went to other students at the school who were not in direct contact with disease but who could still contract it.

The letter sent to students in close contact said, “We recommend your child begin taking antibiotics (even if they have no symptoms of pertussis).”

Because of the school’s speedy notification process, Snyder said she was able to contact her son’s doctor right away and get Alexander started on antibiotics by Wednesday night.


  • Sneezing
  • Mild fever
  • Cough

Any known or suspected cases should be reported immediately to the health department at 874-7356.

Fales said that she was happy with the quick response of parents. “They were most helpful and understanding,” she said.

This is not the first time that Ridgeway and other area schools have dealt with whooping cough. In May, more than a dozen cases were reported in Columbia. Although none of these were at Ridgeway, Fales said her school still took similar precautions.

“It is important to follow procedure so that we can stop this here,” Fales said.

The Columbia Health Department shares Fales’ views and is doing its part to

see that this case is controlled quickly.

“We are pretty confident that there will be more cases,” said Heather Baer, public information specialist for the health department.

Several people have already been tested. According to Baer, the results of the tests could be back as early as this afternoon.

The health department recommends that people experiencing symptoms of whooping cough contact their health care providers immediately.

Baer added that this is a good reminder to those who have not been immunized to do so, especially young children and the elderly.

Snyder wonders if the vaccinations are effective.

“If whooping cough is as dangerous as it is for babies and these outbreaks are occurring in schools as frequently as they are, I wonder if school-aged children should be receiving boosters for the vaccine,” she said.

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