Whooping cough case confirmed at Atascadero Junior High

One confirmed case of whooping cough has been reported at Atascadero Junior High School.

The Atascadero Unified School District issued an alert to parents last week stating that there had been one laboratory confirmed case of whooping cough, also known as pertussis. District officials were not available Wednesday for further comment.

Early symptoms of pertussis are similar to a common cold or bronchitis and may include a runny nose, sneezing and a low-grade fever, in addition to coughing, according to the district’s alert to parents.

The disease, which can be passed easily from person to person, is serious for babies and can cause them to cough so much that they cannot breathe. It can also cause teens and adults to experience severe coughing that can lead to vomiting or broken ribs.

The district’s notice urges family members get vaccinated. California law also requires students in public and private schools receive the whooping cough booster shot before starting seventh grade.

A new law going into effect on Jan. 1, 2016 will no longer permit immunization exemptions to currently required vaccines based on personal beliefs for children in child care and public and private schools. Personal belief exemptions submitted before Jan. 1 will remain valid until a pupil reaches kindergarten or seventh grade.

The school district’s notice to parents requests that parents or children stay home if they develop symptoms of pertussis and to contact their physician. Antibiotics can be given to shorten the period of communicability and reduce the spread of the disease. A child can return to school once he or she has taken five days of an approved antibiotic.

Anyone with questions can call a district nurse at 462-4300 or the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department at 781-5500.

Cynthia Lambert: 805-781-7929, @ClambertSLO