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New Whooping Cough Vaccine Requirements Approved for 2013-14 School Year

The Illinois State Board of Health recently approved the new requirements. So far this year, 30 cases of whooping cough have been reported in McHenry County while 299 cases were reported in 2012.

High school students will need to get a whooping cough vaccine next school year under new requirements recently approved by the Illinois State Board of Health.

All sixth through twelfth grade students will be required to receive one booster shot of Tdap, which is an immunization against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) for the 2013-14 school year, according to the McHenry County Department of Health press release.

Last year, students in sixth through ninth grades were first required to get the vaccine before the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, according to a District 300 press release.

“Immunization is a shared responsibility,” said Patrick J. McNulty, administrator for the McHenry County Department of Health (MCDH).  “Families, health care professionals and our public health partners must work together to help protect our communities.”

Sixth- and ninth-grade students who received the Tdap vaccine in 2012 or earlier will not need to receive another shot for the 2013-14 school, but will need to show proof of having received it before, according to the mcHenry County Department of Health press release.

“The requirement is important because pertussis (whooping cough) disease continues to occur throughout many Illinois communities...” said Illinois Department of Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck in a Jan. 3, 2013 letter to parents. The full letter is available on the Illinois State Board of Education website.

The stepped up requirements come following an increase in whooping cough cases in McHenry County over the past couple years.

The whooping outbreak began in August 2011—with 170 cases reported through the end of the year—and continued into 2012 when 299 total cases were reported. Whooping cough continues to be a problem this year with 30 cases reported as of Jan. 28.

In October 2012, a letter was sent home to Marlowe Middle School parents informing them of a case of pertussis at the school and reminding them that even vaccinated parents and students can be infected by the disease.

"Unfortunately, due to the length of time a person is contagious before being diagnosed, it is possibly your child has been exposed," according to the October letter. "Pertussis is a highly infectious bacterial infection that is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing and may last for several months," according to the letter. "

Reported whooping cough cases have been on the rise nationally for the past 20 to 30 years, according to the Center for Disease Control. Some of the reasons for the increase in cases include: increased awareness, improved diagnostic tests, better reporting, more circulation of the bacteria, and waning immunity, according to the CDC.

More information on whooping cough can be found on the CDC website.

The District 158 health services website provides information on vaccine requirements as well as forms that need to be filled out before the school year.  

District 300 also has a FAQ regarding whooping cough on it website for parents and students to get more information (NOTE: The FAQ does not include information on updated vaccine requirements in Illinois).

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