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Plumas Unified School District and public health officials are gearing up for a large-scale immunization campaign aimed at getting an estimated 2,000-plus preteen and teen students vaccinated for whooping cough.
A new immunization law that takes effect this summer requires that all incoming seventh- to 12th-grade students show proof of receiving a booster shot for whooping cough — also known as pertussis — before starting the 2011-12 school year this fall. Students who begin the school year earlier because of sports, such as starting football practice in August, must get a Tdap vaccine before they hit the field. It is likely some students have received the booster, but all students will be required to update their immunization records at school.
Parent permission slips will be sent home and will be available online at plumascounty.us. Students must return the signed parent consent to get the vaccination. No student will be vaccinated without parent permission.
If a child misses one of the clinics, parents are welcome to make an appointment with Plumas County Public Health Agency at 283-6330 or see a family physician.
It is legal to obtain an exemption from vaccines, but doing so puts both schools and the larger community at risk. Exemption forms cannot be taken home and filled out. The forms must be filled out in the presence of school staff.
What is Tdap?
Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine can protect adolescents and adults against three serious diseases. Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis are all caused by bacteria. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person to person. Tetanus enters the body through cuts, scratches or wounds. Tdap is the first vaccine for adolescents and adults that protects against all three diseases. Do not confuse Tdap with the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccine that has been used for many years as booster doses for adolescents and adults, as it does not contain the pertussis vaccine.
The new state requirement is a direct response to an epidemic increase in the number of cases of whooping cough in the United States. Children who are unimmunized are at greater risk of getting pertussis and they are at greater risk of spreading pertussis. Should there be a pertussis outbreak at school, the children (with exemptions) may be excluded.
Neither vaccination nor illness from whooping cough provides lifetime immunity. By the time a child finishes middle school, the vaccination that they received as a baby wears off. Adolescents and adults need whooping cough boosters to protect them from this epidemic. This disease is vaccine-preventable, and it is up to those who are able to get the vaccine to become the first line of defense against whopping cough. Preventing pertussis in adults and children through vaccination will protect young infants who do not yet have full protection from their vaccines and are also the most at risk for serious illness and death.
Early signs of pertussis include cold-like symptoms: runny nose, sneezing, mild or no fever, and cough. The severity of the cough gradually increases and can continue for several weeks or months. The “whoop” sound often associated with the pertussis cough varies. Adults may experience sweating and/or episodes of a choking sensation. Pertussis can be a very serious illness, especially for young infants. It can lead to breathing problems, pneumonia and swelling of the brain (encephalopathy), which can result in seizures and brain damage. Pertussis can be fatal, especially when it occurs in infants under 4 months of age.
For more information contact a school nurse, or the Plumas County Public Health Agency at 283-6330.
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