On December 22, HEALTH received a report from a Barrington pediatrician that a student had been diagnosed with pertussis. After working with Barrington school officials and other healthcare providers, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) has confirmed a total of eight cases of pertussis in students who attend either Hampden Meadows Elementary School or Barrington Middle School.
HEALTH's staff began working closely with school officials to identify any other symptomatic students, identify close contacts at home and at school who may need antibiotic prophylaxis, assess student immunization coverage rates, and consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on recommended next steps. At this time, CDC does not recommend mass antibiotic prophylaxis.
So that healthcare providers could assist HEALTH in its investigation, HEALTH sent provider advisories on December 29 and January 6 to all licensed providers in the state. The investigation is ongoing, and HEALTH expects to find additional cases. Symptoms of pertussis include cough lasting more than two weeks and worsens to include whooping, short periods without breathing, or gagging or vomiting after coughing spells.
"Anyone with symptoms of pertussis should be tested by his or her healthcare provider," said Director of Health Michael Fine, MD. "The best protection against pertussis is to get vaccinated, so any child who is not up-to-date on his or her pertussis vaccination should be vaccinated. We want to make sure that any infant younger than age one, any pregnant woman, or anyone with a weakened immune system who may have been exposed to someone with pertussis also sees his or her healthcare provider for evaluation, testing, and treatment."
Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease that is also known as whooping cough. It is highly contagious and caused by a bacterial infection of the lungs. People with suspected or confirmed diagnosis of pertussis should stay out of work, school, or child care until they have been on antibiotics for at least five days. HEALTH receives reports of about 60 cases of pertussis each year.