School closed after whooping cough outbreak

May 9, 2008 5:58:44 PM PDT
The Contra Costa County Health Department is closing East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante until Monday because of a whooping cough outbreak. More than a dozen cases have been reported.

In the East Bay, a contagious disease has shut down an entire school.

Whooping cough has made more than a dozen kids sick. It's easy to avoid with a simple vaccine.

It's a three day weekend at East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante that no one wanted.

"If there is an outbreak in the school that is the only way to take stock on what's going on and to make sure its the best way to protect children. Its best to err on the side of caution," said CDC Director Julie Gerberding.

Whooping cough has similar symptoms to the common cold, but can cause violent coughing spasms that last several minutes and is especially dangerous to young children.

Students attending California schools are required to get immunizations for whooping cough but parents can opt out.

The state averages a 99 percent immunization rate. But at East Bay Waldorf School, health officials say less than 50 percent are protected from the disease and say that's why it was able to spread so easily.

"We believe the immunizations are quite safe. And in particular case of an outbreak like this is the appropriate choice for their parents," said Contra Costa County Health Services Director Dr. Wendel Brunner.

The school's administrator Morgan Cleveland issued a statement, saying: "our community is following the direction of the county health authority. We look forward to re-opening school on Monday with the county's cooperation."

The Waldorf School System was founded by Rudolph Steiner in 1919. He believed children were made stronger through illness and believed in a holistic approach to medicine.

A school spokesperson says they do not make recommendations to parents regarding immunizations.

One mother who made sure her child was immunized is Erika Jenssen. She is the Immunization Director for Contra Costa County.

"Sp my child is home today and we're getting an antibiotic prescription for her," said parent Erika Jenssen.

All 340 students and staff members will be required to take antibiotics to get back on to campus, if the school re-opens as expected on Monday.

Those choosing not to take the antibiotic treatment will be kept out of school for the three-week incubation period.

All extra curricular activities at East Bay Waldorf School have been cancelled for the weekend. A spokesperson says this is a good opportunity for the school community an opportunity to have a discussion about immunizations and the impact it has on their kid's health and education.

For more information on whopping cough, click on the links below.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Whopping cough / pertussis info: click here
Whopping cough statistics: click here

American Academy of Pediatrics: click here

WebMD whopping cough info: click here
WebMD whopping cough treatment: click here


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