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Whooping cough close to home?

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A Center Grove bus driver potentially exposed students to a contagious coughing infection that is sometimes known as the 100-day cough, according to county health officials.

The Johnson County Health Department has been investigating a possible case of whooping cough at Center Grove, although it hasn’t been confirmed with tests, said county health officer Dr. Craig Moorman. He said a physician treated the bus driver for the highly contagious illness, which causes coughing, spasms and vomiting.

The bus driver’s son, a Center Grove High school student, also was treated as a precaution, Center Grove Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said. Both the bus driver and the student have been home recovering, and the district asks anyone else with symptoms to stay home, too.

Busloads of students at the school district may have been exposed before the suspected case was reported to the health department last week, Moorman said.

But the case is not definite, since a physician suspected whooping cough and treated it without doing lab tests to confirm the diagnosis, Moorman said. The health department has found no indication so far that anyone else has been diagnosed with whooping cough, but the incubation period can last as long as three weeks.

Center Grove notified parents and asked them to keep their children out of school if they displayed any symptoms, including a low fewer, coughing fits and whooping sounds after coughing, Arkonoff said. Parents were asked to take their children to the doctor if they showed any symptoms and were told they would be called to come pick up any child who came to school with the symptoms.

“We’re asking them to be watchful for those symptoms as a precaution,” he said. “We have to be proactive.”

No estimate was available of how many people were potentially exposed, but they could include athletic teams and students at any schools on the bus driver’s route, Arkanoff said. No students have missed school because of any whooping cough symptoms, he said.

By sixth grade, all students in Indiana are supposed to be vaccinated against whooping cough, or pertussis, Moorman said. Guidelines also recommend that school employees such as bus drivers get vaccinations, although it’s not required, he said.

The illness causes people to suffer from coughing bouts for weeks or months, and those fits often end with vomiting or gasping for air, Moorman said.

“You’re not going to feel very good,” he said. “You’re going to lose a lot of weight when you cough until you throw up.”

Doctors can treat the disease with antibiotics and also give vaccines for it.

Whooping cough spreads through fluids when someone coughs or sneezes. Typically, that requires close contact, such as with household members, people who have had face-to-face contact and anyone who shares a confined space with an infectious person for more than an hour, Moorman said. He said it wasn’t clear whether a bus would be confined enough to spread the disease.

No other suspected cases of whooping cough have been reported at Center Grove or anywhere else in Johnson County, Moorman said. But the incubation period can last from four to 21 days.

Until then, parents should watch for symptoms and take their children to the family doctor to be checked out if needed. But he cautioned that children could be coughing for a number of reasons, and coughing alone isn’t a sign of whooping cough.

“Everybody’s coughing this time of year,” he said.

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