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School health update:
Report flu, immunize against whooping cough

The state Department of Health is asking schools to report flu-related illness again this year. They’re also working to get word out about vaccinating adolescent children for pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Reporting flu absenteeism
For reporting purposes, the Department of Health asks schools to simply count the number of children absent from school weekly due to “illness.” Although this is a blunt measure, it gives DOH a good indication of when influenza is striking a region within the state.

To report flu absenteeism in your school, visit http://doh.sd.gov and scroll down to “Quick Links.” Click on “Report weekly absenteeism numbers for schools.” This link will take you directly to the weekly survey. Please report data for the previous school week. The data collected is confidential and voluntary.

School-specific information will not be released or published. Weekly aggregate school absenteeism summaries will be included in weekly influenza updates that are distributed statewide and posted on the Department of Health website.

If you have any questions regarding this surveillance project, please contact Vickie Horan at the Department of Health, (605) 773-3737.

Whooping cough immunization recommended for adolescents
Several states are reporting outbreaks of pertussis (or whooping cough), and cases are on the rise in South Dakota.

A booster vaccine is recommended for adolescent children at age 11-12, when the immunity from the childhood pertussis series begins to wane. The Department of Health is currently making Tdap vaccine available free to all children ages 11-14. Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Parents can contact their usual vaccine provider to get their children vaccinated.

The Department of Health also will work with schools to make the Tdap vaccine available in the school setting, either along with the usual seasonal flu clinics or as separate clinics. Schools interested in organizing a Tdap clinic for their middle school students can contact one of the department’s local Community Health Services offices.

Pertussis is a serious illness that causes uncontrollable coughing, rib fractures, pneumonia, loss of consciousness and even death. It is especially serious for very young children, with two-thirds of those under age 1 who get it needing hospitalization. As with other contagious diseases, pertussis spreads easily in the school setting and on into the community. Vaccinating middle school students protects them from illness and increases the ring of protection around vulnerable infants and helps decrease the likelihood of outbreaks.

As school clinics are scheduled, please submit date, time and location details to the department at DOH.INFO@state.sd.us so events can be listed on the schedule at http://doh.sd.gov/WhoopingCough/.