A rare pertussis infection-commonly known as whooping cough - was discovered Tuesday in a Smith Middle School student and a Solanco High School student has been diagnosed with MRSA.A letter was sent home to parents of Smith Middle School students Tuesday to let them know about the student there who contracted pertussis.

District officials declined to disclose the name or grades of the students.

At the high school, school officials learned about a student possibly having MRSA on Monday, said principal Gerard Rosolie.

"A parent called and said they were taking their child to the doctor because they suspected MRSA," he said. "Rather than panicking, we took action right away."

Rosolie said the parent called Tuesday to confirm that their child did have MRSA.

"Monday we notified the custodians," he said. "We didn't wait for the confirmation."

Rosolie would not disclose the grade the student is in, but did say the student rides the bus and is an underclassman.

This is the second case of MRSA at the high school this school year. The first case occurred in October.

Solanco is following all recommendations from the Pennsylvania Department of Health concerning procedures to disinfect the school.

In addition, the student is being cared for by medical personnel. Solanco maintenance staff are following recommendations from the Pennsylvania Department of Health concerning the disinfecting of the bus and areas of the high school the student has recently been in.

Solanco procedures for maintenance and cleaning follow recommendations by the health department to minimize the spread of MRSA. However, with reported cases we intensify those efforts.

The following is the letter that was sent home to parents.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough which becomes much worse over one to two weeks. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs ("coughing fits") followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. There is generally no fever. People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching their breath. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough. The disease can be very severe and, although deaths are rare, they do occur, especially in infants less than one year of age.

Sometimes a child can get sick with pertussis after being around someone with the illness. This is especially true when the child has not received all of his/her pertussis vaccinations.

If your child has a high chance of getting sick, the doctor can give antibiotics to lower that chance. If your child is already sick, giving antibiotics early can help your child get well faster and lower the chances of spreading the disease to others.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health strongly recommends the following: 1. Infants under one year, and particularly under six months, are most likely to experience severe illness if they develop pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be promptly evaluated by their doctor.

2. Making sure that children receive all their shots on time is the best way to control pertussis in the future. Children should receive four (4) doses of DTaP vaccine by 18 months of age and an additional dose of DTaP before they start school. If you have children less than 7 years of age who have not been completely immunized against pertussis (particularly infants under one year) we recommend that you promptly contact your child's doctor to discuss getting your child vaccinated.

3. A new combination tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine (Tdap) is available for use in adolescents and adults. Tdap is recommended for use in all 11-12 year olds and 15-year-olds at high school entry. In adults under 65 years of age, Tdap should be given as a one time dose in place of a Td. There is no pertussis vaccine approved for adults aged 65 years and older.

4. If your child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough, he/she should not attend day care until evaluated by his/her physician. Children with pertussis, if their medical condition allows, may return to day care five (5) days after starting the antibiotics and must continue taking the antibiotics until completed.

5. If your child is diagnosed with pertussis, all household members and other close contacts should also be treated with antibiotics regardless of their age or vaccination status.

MRSA: In an effort to keep the community informed, there has also been a case of MRSA reported at the high school. The bus that the student rides has been sanitized, as has the high school facilities. The cleaning regimen that the district follows on a regular basis includes cleansers that are suggested to impede the spread of MRSA.

Included with this letter is fact sheet on pertussis. If you have a question about pertussis or MRSA, we have a link to the Pennsylvania Department of Health on our district website www.solancosd.org.

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