MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) – Parents, be on the lookout for symptoms of whooping cough in your children.
Montgomery County Public Schools sent a letter home to parents alerting them to three confirmed and nine suspected cases of the disease. Whooping cough is highly contagious, and school officials say they’re concerned it could spread to others.
The students with either confirmed or suspected cases of pertussis—also known as whooping cough—attend four MCPS schools: Robert Frost Middle School, Julius West Middle School, Cabin John Middle School and Cold Spring Elementary School.
Erin Hendricks’ son is a seventh grader at Julius West. She says she was stunned to hear the news.
“My initial reaction was, who in 2014 has whooping cough?” Hendricks said.
County health officials say the sick children all attended the same summer camp in Pennsylvania. ABC 7 News’ partner WTOP reports that when the students left camp, about 200 were warned they may have been exposed to the bacterial disease.
“Why did they let ‘em go to school?” Hendricks asked. “A lot of unanswered questions.”
Pertussis is highly contagious. It causes violent coughing, and those infected with the disease make a deep “whooping” sound when they try to breathe.
“I didn’t know it was in Montgomery County Schools,” said parent Jim Hafner-Eaton. “Since I have a child in Montgomery County Schools, that’s good to know.”
In a letter sent home to parents at the four MCPS schools in question, county health officials advised, “Please watch your child for any symptoms of pertussis (mild, cold-like symptoms) over the next few weeks. If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, please notify your child’s primary care physician as soon as possible.”
In the letter, health officials also said pertussis is treated with antibiotics, and that students would be eligible to return to school after five days of treatment.
New vaccine requirements took effect this year for all Maryland schools. Kindergarten students were required to get a number of vaccines, including the one for pertussis. There are similar requirements for students entering seventh grade.