March 5, 2020
The Alabama Department of Public Health's, Immunization Division, is investigating an outbreak of Pertussis in your child's school. Your child may have been exposed while attending school. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread to others by contact with respiratory droplets such as coughing.
Pertussis begins with symptoms like the common cold such as runny nose, mild sore throat, minimal or no fever, and a mild, dry cough. The cough gradually becomes more severe over 1-2 weeks and may result in a long series of coughs followed by a whooping noise as the person struggles to breathe. The cough is often worse at night. Vomiting may occur, and the person may be left exhausted after the coughing spell. A close contact is defined as anyone who had face-to-face contact or shared a confined space for a prolonged period with an infected person or had direct contact with respiratory secretions from a symptomatic person.
In the absence of an epidemic, schools may accept religious and medical exemptions for students to attend school under Code of Alabama Section 16-30-3. However, once an epidemic exists, children that have not been vaccinated shall not attend school for a designated time. Under Code of Alabama Section 22-1lA-7, persons must obey the instructions and recommendations of the Department of Public Health to prevent the spread of disease.
If your child is not up-to-date for all school vaccines, the Department of Public Health recommends that your child receive vaccinations from your healthcare provider or county health department to ensure your child is protected from all vaccine-preventable diseases for required school attendance. Children and staff that have opted to receive the recommended antibiotics during this outbreak, but have not received the vaccine, must be excluded from school, because receiving antibiotics is not a substitute for a vaccine.
Please consider the following additional recommendations from the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH):
- If your child or family members have any of the above symptoms, please have them evaluated by their health care provider and request a PCR specimen be collected and tested at the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories.
- When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and always wash your hands with soap and water after sneezing or coughing.
- Ensure all household members are up-to-date for all age-appropriate vaccines.
- Children and staff that are diagnosed with pertussis should be excluded from school and other extracurricular activities until 5 days of recommended antibiotics have been taken.
- For children and staff that are not up to date with pertussis containing vaccine should be excluded from school and other extracurricular activities for 21 days from the last case in the outbreak.
If you have any questions, please contact your Immunization Compliance Team Member, Lakeea Gamble at (256) 389-3585 or (256) 668-1080.
Burnestine Taylor, M.D.
Medical Officer of Disease Control & Prevention