At least five cases of whooping cough have been reported at a suburban Chicago high school so far this year and school officials are warning parents about the illness.
Fenwick High School said it is working the Oak Park Department of Public Health after a number of students have been diagnosed with whooping cough, also known as pertussis.
The first case was reported in mid-January and school records show all five students had been previously vaccinated prior to their diagnosis.
"The school has been in compliance with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Oak Park Department of public health,” a spokesperson for the school said. “We are following all procedures for how to manage this and have notified parents each time a case has been reported."
The school has also placed teachers on alert, asking them to send students down the school nurse if they feel they need an assessment and not to pressure students about missing class.
"[My friend] said she wasn't feeling well and now she can't come back to school," said student Alexa Zamudio.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial illness. It initially resembles an ordinary cold but can turn more serious, especially in infants and young children.
According to the school’s nurse, Donna Pape, the illness starts off with cold-like symptoms but can then turn into a severe “staccato” cough and possible vomiting. Those infected with pertussis may experience coughing fits particularly at night, and vomiting after coughing. The cough associated with pertussis can last several weeks.
Symptoms typically do not appear until five to 10 days after initial exposure but can take as long as 21 days, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Most diagnosed with whooping cough recover completely following treatment with antibiotics.
Cases of whooping cough have also been reported this year at Unity Preschool in Evanston, Warren Township High School in Gurnee and Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook.
Dr Kenneth Fox, a pediatrician at North Shore University Health System, said the best defense is to get your family vaccinated and make sure your vaccinations are up to date.
"For people who are unprotected, if you’re exposed to this germ, there’s a 9 out of 10 chance you’re going to get the illness," Fox said.
Fenwick parent and doctor Robert Koch also recommended sanitizing and maintaining good nutrition as preventative measures.
"Wash your hands, get their sleep, keep the nutrition well," he said. "And if they feel they have a cough, stay home."