OGDEN -- Unvaccinated Mount Ogden Junior High students will have a longer-than-expected break from school because another student and a school employee have been confirmed as having whooping cough.
Earlier this week, 65 unimmunized Mount Ogden students were sent home for at least five days after the school was notified that one of its students had been diagnosed with whooping cough.
Because of the additional cases, the school is considered to have an outbreak of whooping cough, said Glen Kinney, Weber/Morgan Health Department epidemiologist.
Before those unimmunized students can return, they must take the required pertussis/whooping cough antibiotic for five days, or if they choose not to take the antibiotic, they must wait a certain number of days or until the school's last case of whooping cough is over, Kinney said.
With the new cases, the incubation timetable has changed and students with signed exemptions for immunizations will not be allowed to return until Nov. 14, even if they have been taking the antibiotic.
Students who are underimmunized may return to school Monday but must have proof of taking the antibiotic and proof of complete, up-to-date immunization of Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis).
The enforced absence increases each time another case turns up. If another is reported Nov. 15, those same exempt students would be forced out of school another 21 days, Kinney said.
District spokeswoman Jeannette Pascoe said school officials have worked extra hours to inform all parents about the change of status of incubation times.
The district found about the additional confirmed cases about 10 minutes before school was dismissed Friday.
"School officials are working hard to contact 63 families right now," Pascoe said.
The health department gives the information to the district as soon as it can, Kinney said.
The health department tries to isolate and quarantine people at risk as soon as it receives information, and although those who are not vaccinated may no longer be contagious, they are still susceptible to whooping cough, he said.
One of the newest cases is an immunized student, but Kinney said the immunization is only 80 to 85 percent effective.
"There is still 15 percent of the population that the immunization doesn't affect."
There is no way to tell who falls into the 15 percent category, he said.
Parents of students at the school may be worried, Kinney said, but the health department and school district are both doing everything possible to contain the disease.
It's not just a school threat, but also a community threat because an adult has contracted the disease.
"We know for a fact that pertussis is circulating and there is a higher level of concern," Kinney said.
The problem is that pertussis symptoms are similar to those of the common cold or flu.
"There is a heavy emphasis on coughing, and they are very likely to have a fever," Kinney said.
It takes about 24 to 48 hours to get results from pertussis tests.
The biggest area of concern is for children under the age of 1.
"It is a serious respiratory disease," Kinney said. Babies usually are hospitalized when they get whooping cough.
"This is a serious matter, but there is no basis for panic here," said Ogden School District Superintendent Brad Smith.
He knows he needs to protect those students who are immunized, but also needs to protect those students whose parents, for various reasons, choose to not have their children immunized.
"It's a difficult balancing act," Smith said.
He has asked principals to encourage teachers and employees to get up to date on immunizations. He has no intention of making any kind of mandate to that effect, but he believes it's a common-sense idea for those adults to be immunized.
Kinney also said it is wise, although many adults choose not to get vaccinated.
"We have adults walking around in our community not immunized," he said.
This is first year students have been required to have to Tdap booster before entering seventh grade, so district nurses spent last spring educating parents and students about the obtaining the booster so there wouldn't be big problems once school started.
Pascoe said the district is working on a more clear and strict policy for students to alleviate confusion when registration time rolls around.
Currently, no other schools besides Mount Ogden have any confirmed whooping cough cases.
Michelle Singleton, who oversees vaccines for Weber/Morgan Health Department, said the department tries to make it easy to get required vaccines.
She urges students to visit their primary care provider, but said those who are uninsured or underinsured can visit Weber/Morgan Health Department for the vaccines.