- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - The Reno County Health Department’s director said he’s cautiously optimistic that a whooping cough outbreak in the county is beginning to wane.

The last suspected case of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was reported to the county Health Department on Thursday, pushing the number of suspected cases to 102, said director Nick Baldetti. The state has confirmed 71 cases in the county, with the last confirmed case initially reported Aug. 6.

“The amount of testing being done in our community is starting to decrease,” Baldetti told The Hutchinson News (https://bit.ly/1NBm6Ae ). “Hopefully that’s a good sign that the height of the outbreak is beginning to wane. But it is still a dispersed population. We are waiting for back to school to start to see its potential. It really could go either way.”

The Health Department has conducted clinics for several school districts in advance of fall classes beginning to administer pertussis vaccinations to staff, students and parents. Baldetti said the agency has administered about 300 Tdap vaccinations since the outbreak began, but still have at least 300 “on deck.” The vaccinations are free to the public.

Baldetti said officials want teachers and school staff to be vigilant monitoring students and to contact the department with any suspected cases of whooping cough, which is contagious and characterized by intense coughing, fever and runny nose.

The department conducted a “well-attended meeting” earlier this month to raise awareness regarding whooping cough and the resources available to schools, Baldetti said. Flyers were distributed to parents advising them what symptoms to look for.

“If a parent or guardian has questions, it is encouraged they work with their school officials and the health department in regard to symptoms and next steps,” he said.

Health officials don’t consider an outbreak contained until two full cycles of the disease - one cycle is 21 days - passes without a new case. The newspaper reports that at this point, that would be Sept. 25.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, https://www.hutchnews.com

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