The Fairfax County Health Department issued a letter Friday, Dec. 3, to all Fairfax County Public School principals, community physicians and parents updating them on recent pertussis cases found in some county schools.
Kimberly Cordero, spokeswomen for the county health department, said that although officials not publicly name the schools involved, parents with children at the schools where the pertussis, or whooping cough, cases were reported have been notified.
"It's routine to send out letter to parents," said Cordero. "If [a parent] wasn't contacted by the health department, don't worry."
Although she would not confirm a specific number of cases — because she said there could be people who are not showing symptoms that have the illness — Cordero did say there were "several cases of school-aged children" with pertussis.
The letter sent to parents said, "The Fairfax County Health Department is actively investigating several cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in the community. This on-going investigation has revealed that some students in your child's school may have clinical symptoms consistent with pertussis."
"We're tracking the cases," said Cordero, adding that those infected have been treated and are recovering fine. "There are no updates, but a lot have been linked by household and outside activities."
Whooping cough can be serious for infants and young children, but children 7-years and older — along with adults — usually develop a milder form of pertussis.
To help control the spread of pertussis, the health department says to check immunization records — any child under 7-years old who has not received at least three DTP immunizations needs to be taken to a physician or the health department to receive the DTP shot.
Any child or adult experiencing pertussis symptoms should not be sent to school or work until checked by a physician or the health department.
If pertussis is confirmed, the patient should be excluded from all activities outside of the home until five full days of a course of antibiotics are completed. If antibiotics are not administered, the patient should be excluded for 21 full days after the onset of the cough.
Pertussis symptoms include, a cough lasting more than two weeks, cough lasting less than two weeks that increases in severity or that occurs in fits or spasms, coughing fits accompanied by difficulty breathing, coughs that cause gagging or vomiting.