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Pertussis reported at Primrose School at Lowry in Denver

Owner reports 2 cases of whooping cough
Posted at 11:43 PM, Nov 22, 2016

DENVER -- The owner of The Primrose School at Lowry confirmed the well-known daycare has had two children diagnosed with pertussis, highlighting a concern for many parents in Colorado where vaccination rates are among the lowest.

At Primrose, parents are required to immunize their children. Montida Chowanadisai's 2-year-old son goes to the daycare, and she said the school notified her of the cases.

"I know the school takes good precautions when someone has whooping cough," she said. "And they let us know so we can look out for the signs of it and everything." 

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a very serious lung infection that causes violent coughing. It is most serious in young children and infants and can even cause death.

Dr. Christiana Smith, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Children's Hospital Colorado, said that while two cases at a daycare are not out of the ordinary, they should be taken very seriously.

"Whenever we hear about cases in a daycare, it's concerning because we know that other kids in the daycare have been exposed and could potentially get the infection," said Smith.

It's especially concerning in Colorado, which ranks 45th out of 50 states for childhood immunizations.  The state has one of the most lenient personal belief exemptions in the country, simply requiring parents fill out a form, and studies have linked vaccine refusal to a rise in diseases like pertussis.

"We do have a fair share of parents in Colorado who decline that vaccination as well as other vaccinations," said Smith.

So far in 2016, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports 591 cases of pertussis, which appears to be slightly down from recent epidemic years, but still an alarmingly high rate compared to the baseline.

Plus, Smith said, the numbers tend to peak in the fall.

"The vaccine is not perfect, and you can still get pertussis, even after you’ve been immunized," said Smith. "But immunization decreases the chances of getting pertussis by a pretty significant percent, and it can lessen the severity of the symptoms. It’s the best thing that you can do to prevent getting infected."

Signs and symptoms of whooping cough include:

• Cough for one to two weeks with no fever.

• Severe coughing that may cause gagging or vomiting.

• A “whooping sound” when a child gasps for breath after a coughing fit.

• Infants might not cough, only struggle to breathe

For more information about Whooping Cough from Denver Public Health, click here.

Here are more resources and an example of what a child with whooping cough sounds like.