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22 cases of whooping cough reported in Exeter High School outbreak

Union Leader Correspondent

June 20. 2018 10:21PM
Exeter High School has experienced a whooping cough outbreak in recent weeks. (Jason Schreiber)

EXETER — The spread of highly contagious whooping cough may begin to ease now that summer break has begun at Exeter High School, where 22 cases of the illness were reported in recent weeks.

State health officials this week confirmed that the school experienced a whooping cough outbreak in the days leading up to the last day of classes on Monday.

Jake Leon, director of communications for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said the 22 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was considered an outbreak because there were more cases than would normally be expected. Leon said New Hampshire typically sees 50 to 150 cases each year.

“It is not an uncommon disease and can be found in schools and other communal settings,” he said.

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract and is spread through close contact — typically within three feet for a total of one hour or more — with someone who has the infection, which causes a persistent cough.

It can be spread through contact with infected saliva and respiratory secretions. Once someone is exposed, symptoms usually develop within five to 10 days after exposure, but may not develop for up to 21 days, according to state officials.

The state has been tracking the cases as whooping cough is a reportable disease.

Leon said no other outbreaks have been reported in New Hampshire schools this year.

To treat the illness, state health officials have instructed those infected to take a five-day course of antibiotics and to stay home or otherwise avoid communal settings for those five days to prevent further exposure, Leon said.

High school officials notified the state Division of Public Health Services on June 1 about a student with a confirmed case. The state investigates any diagnosis to determine whether other individuals may have been infected or may have come into contact with the bacteria and require antibiotics to help prevent the illness, health officials wrote in a letter to the school.

The state worked with Exeter High School staff and School Administrative Unit 16 to identify individuals who may have been infected or be at risk of developing an infection. The state also contacted those at a higher risk of a pertussis infection in order to recommend antibiotics when needed.

Education Health Exeter

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