MILLSTONE — The Millstone Township K-8 School District is handling a health situation involving pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection.
Pertussis is more commonly known as whooping cough.
Superintendent of Schools Scott Feder discussed the issue at the Dec. 14 Board of Education meeting.
Feder said a letter was sent to parents of students to inform them of what is occurring in the district. According to Feder, the situation began when a Millstone Township resident who attends Allentown High School in the Upper Freehold Regional School District was diagnosed with the infection on Dec. 11.
The Monmouth County Board of Health is providing direction for the Millstone schools to prevent a potential epidemic. Following the Board of Health’s guidance, pupils who need treatment receive a fiveday regimen of the antibiotic azithromycin.
“Five days will significantly reduce the contagiousness of this condition,” Feder said.
Feder explained that students being treated were divided into three categories.
The first category is students who are confirmed to have whooping cough after a medical diagnosis.
As of Dec. 14, a fifth grade pupil in the Millstone Township Elementary School was confirmed to have pertussis. Feder also made note of a whooping cough case involving a second fifth grade pupil and a seventh grade sibling in the Millstone Township Middle School.
The second category is individuals who have been in close contact with students with a confirmed case of pertussis who are displaying symptoms of whooping cough.
“In this case, the Allentown High School (student’s) siblings were also symptomatic and have obviously been in close contact (with the high school student),” Feder said. “So they were all treated accordingly as if it was a confirmation.”
Individuals who had close contact with a person who had a confirmed case of pertussis, but were not symptomatic, make up the third category.
According to the Board of Health, “close contact” is defined as being right next to an individual who has been confirmed to have an illness.
On Dec. 14, administrators in the Millstone school district attempted to identify close contact cases, making note of the individuals that pupils with a confirmed case of pertussis sat next to during their various classes.
Those identified were immediately sent home and received medical attention, even if they were not displaying symptoms of whooping cough, according to district officials.
Feder acknowledged that only a few pupils were diagnosed with pertussis, which he considered to be fortunate, but he said school personnel would continue to keep a close eye on anyone who appears to have the infection and those to whom they might have spread the illness.
“It is a complicated issue, but one we are taking extremely seriously,” he said.
Laura Kirkpatrick, a spokeswoman for Monmouth County, said pertussis is a cyclical illness that presents itself every three to five years. The last peak year in the area was 2012.
Kirkpatrick said administrators in the Millstone school district reacted quickly to inform the public about what was occurring and have been working closely with the Monmouth County Health Department to address the situation on an ongoing basis.
For more information about pertussis, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/ vaccines/vpd-vac/pertussis/
Examiner Managing Editor Mark Rosman contributed to this article.