UPDATE: Three pertussis cases confirmed at west Omaha schools

Published: Nov. 8, 2019 at 11:15 AM CST
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Custodial crews will be deep cleaning Millard's Abbott Elementary and Kiewit Middle School this weekend in the wake of cases of pertussis in the metro.

Disinfecting machinery will be used at the two locations with exposure to confirmed cases.

Officials have confirmed three individual cases of pertussis, also known as "whooping cough," at separate west Omaha schools.

Friday morning, Kiewit Middle School confirmed the school was aware of a case of


According to a release from KMS Principal Marshall Smith, a letter — including an informational sheet about the infection — already had been sent to some of the school's families.

"Our families who received letters simply need to be aware that if their child has cold symptoms, it would be a good idea to check with their doctor," Smith said in the release.

A parent letter obtained by 6 News on Friday confirmed the second case of pertussis in west Omaha schools.

The letter, dated Thursday and addressed to parents of Grace Abbott Elementary School from the Douglas County Health Department, advised parents to watch for symptoms through Thursday, Nov. 21, and advised that anyone not vaccinated against pertussis or who does not take preventative antibiotics "may be excluded from school and/or activities."

The letter, which identified the diagnosed Grace student as a fifth-grader, also advised staff or students who develop respiratory symptoms to contact their healthcare provider.

Later on Friday, DCHD sent a letter to parents of Elkhorn Ridge Middle School notifying them that a seventh-grader there had been diagnosed as well.

Common in the U.S., pertussis is "a very contagious disease that can be deadly for babies," according to the


It typically spreads from person to person via coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

"Whooping cough always is with us," said Phil Rooney with the Douglas County Health Department. "People need to wash hands, cover coughs, get vaccinated, and stay home when they're sick."

Omaha typically sees "some cases of pertussis" every year, according to the Kiewit principal's release, which also explained the school's response process:

"The Douglas County Health Department researches each case and guides our response. They determine the student’s exposure and follow the guidelines from the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention. They provide a letter and list of people we should (sic) inform who might have had exposure to the person with the confirmed case. This is why only some families are informed. They were the ones with a student who had possible contact with the student who is sick," the letter states.

DCHD advised those in the following "high-risk" groups to seek preventative treatments:

  • Infants younger than one year
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a pre-existing health condition that may be exacerbated by a pertussis infection, such as immunocompromised persons and those with moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have close contact with either infants, pregnant women, or individuals with pre-existing health conditions at risk of severe illness or complications
  • All people in high-risk settings that include infants younger than one year old or women in the third trimester of pregnancy, such as neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), childcare settings, and maternity wards

"If you or your child meet the above high-risk criteria, contact your healthcare provider to arrange preventive antibiotic treatment as soon as possible," the DCHD release states.

Doctors generally treat whooping cough with antibiotics, but a vaccine is also available, according to the CDC.

"Adults can have pertussis, and it will only seem like a cold, but they can actually have whooping cough and pass it on to children," Rooney said. "That's why I got my

this year, to protect my grandson."