Whooping cough outbreaks at 2 North Shore schools

November 3, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Not long after the school year started, a few students at The Carleton W. Washburne School in Winnetka and Highcrest Middle School in Wilmette brought home more than schoolwork. They contracted whooping cough.

An outbreak affected five students at Washburne and 13 students at Highcrest. The superintendent of Wilmette School District 39, Dr. Raymond Lechner, says the uptick in pertussis cases happened after the state moved back the age that kids get their booster shots by a year, to 11 years old.

"We found that the vaccinations that children get when they're younger, they tend to wear off. So right around the age of fifth grade, a booster would be helpful," said Lechner.

Soon after whooping cough was detected at Washburne, parents were notified by a letter.

"It was important for us, as soon as we had a firm case, as recommended by the Cook County Department of Health, that we sent out an e-mail notification right away to our parents at Washburne School," said Washburne principal Cathy Rosen.

Parents of Highcrest students were also notified and encouraged to get their children checked out by their pediatricians.

"Because my daughter had been identified as having been in close contact with somebody who was diagnosed with pertussis," said Steve Markscheid, parent.

Last week, a vaccination clinic was held at Highcrest and 84 students received booster shots.

School officials say it seems to be a coincidence that both the Wilmette and Winnetka school districts reported whooping cough cases.

No new cases have been reported.

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