The Riverhead Central School District said it has been notified of a confirmed case of whooping cough in one of its elementary schools.
In a letter dated Jan. 31, the district warned parents that a case of whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial infection, was confirmed in the Riley Avenue Elementary School.
“If your child has or develops a severe uncontrolled cough, you should contact your doctor immediately,” the district’s super intendant, Nancy Carney, said in the letter.
“In addition, the Riley Avenue School’s custodial staff is taking extra cleaning precautions,” the letter reads.
So far this year there have been 68 cases of whooping cough—or pertussis—in Suffolk, a department of health spokeswoman said. Cases have been confirmed in 27 school districts across the county as well as 12 private schools, the spokeswoman said.
Officials said last year that the outbreak of whooping cough started in June, with whooping cough cases at St. James Elementary School, Tacken Elementary School and Nesaquake Middle School.
There were 302 cases of pertussis in 2011, the spokeswoman said. In October, health officials said the number of whooping cough cases tripled compared to 2010.
“When an infected person coughs, tiny droplets containing the bacteria travel through the air, and the disease is easily spread from person to person,” the Riverhead School District physician said in another letter to parents. “Close contacts and infants are at increased risk. Cold like symptoms usually lead to a severe cough. This can be treated and cured with antibiotics.”
Officials said there are three stages of pertussis infection:
Stage 1: Mild respiratory symptoms, low-grade fever and a slight cough that (1 to 2 weeks).
Stage 2: Rapid cough, followed by a “whooping” sound, as well as vomiting and exhaustion (6 or more weeks).
Stage 3: Coughing episodes may last for weeks or months. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says this is the convalescent stage, and recovery is gradual.
According to the Center for Disease Control, multiple factors have likely contributed to the increase in pertussis cases, including a decrease in immunity from childhood pertussis vaccines, increased recognition of the disease, better diagnostic testing and increased reporting.