By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer
At least two Greater Cincinnati school districts are asking parents to look for signs of whooping cough in their children.
One case of the disease, also known as pertussis, has been confirmed at Walnut Hills High School in Cincinnati. A student in the Milford school district has it, too, along with a parent of another student there.
Health officials say this small amount of activity is not unusual - sporadic cases of the bacteria-borne disease occur ever year.
But parents should be on the alert nonetheless.
The disease can be spread much like the common cold and causes prolonged coughing spells, difficulty breathing, hoarseness, hives and paleness. In infants, the illness can be so bad that it is hard for them to eat, drink or breathe.
Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics, and children with the illness are generally asked to stay home from school for five days.
"We think we've halted the spread in people who have been diagnosed so far," Clermont County Health Commissioner Janet Rickabaugh said.
Clermont County has four confirmed cases of whooping cough. Last year at this time, the county had three and ended up with 11 for all of 2003.
Elsewhere, Cincinnati reports two other cases of whooping cough this year, and Hamilton County, Warren County and Northern Kentucky each have one case.
The Walnut Hills student is on antibiotics and doing well, said Eileen C. Halpern, immunization officer at the school.
Pediatricians routinely immunize infants against whooping cough, giving them a shot in combination with vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus.
But the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine is known to wane, leaving some teenagers and adults vulnerable.
Greater Cincinnati was hit with a whooping cough epidemic in 1993. Hundreds of cases were reported and entire classes of schoolchildren and large groups of employees were given shots to slow the disease.
Overall, between 5,000 and 7,000 cases are reported in the United States each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thirteen children died in the United States last year. Most deaths occur among unvaccinated children.
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