MILLERSBURG, Ohio - The East Holmes School District is telling 78 students from two elementary schools to stay at home after they might have been exposed to whooping cough, and have either not been vaccinated or their vaccinations are not complete.
Holmes County Health Department Director Dr. D.J. McFadden said three cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, have been confirmed in the county.
"It does happen, but it doesn't happen as regularly as it is happening now. I mean, we are back to higher, as high of rates as we had before vaccinations in some parts of the country," McFadden said.
McFadden made the recommendation to the school district to keep the kids home to try and limit the spread of the disease.
"They are well at this time and I certainly hope they are excluded for no good reason. There’s about a week-long process to display symptoms so these children could be ill and we just don’t know it yet so they are excluded as that precaution because if they are sick those symptoms will show up soon and they could be exposing other people at the same time," said East Holmes Superintendent Joe Edinger.
Edinger said parents make decisions regarding the immunizations based on a number of good reasons.
"Maybe history with other children having reactions to the immunizations or for religious and cultural reasons and with that decision they accept the fact that when an outbreak occurs they will be asked to stay home," Edinger said.
Although the county has a large Amish population, Edinger said most of the kids who are being told to stay home are not Amish.
The timing means students will miss only about a week of classes before Christmas break. They will also miss their school's Christmas activities, but the school and the health district are not stopping them from attending family functions or other community events.
"There's never a good time to get sick, I guess, and the holiday season is especially difficult time. Kids love going to their music programs, the gift exchanges, all of the fun things that are happening in school and when you are sick or excluded because of this illness this is a difficult time to miss," Edinger said.
"I don't have enough of the exposure to force a quarantine in this setting, but I have strongly encouraged folks to stay home, don’t go out and about to parties and that kind of stuff since kids haven’t been vaccinated," McFadden said.
"What we are trying to do is prevent the disease for the smallest for the young children because if this outbreak continues to spread, eventually we are going to have another small child in our community, you know 1-month-old, 18-month-old, something like that, who gets pertussis and then stop breathing or, God forbid, they die and that's what we are trying to prevent," said McFadden, adding "What I am asking the community is each of us take a little bit more precaution to protect the most vulnerable in our community."