School trip precautions taken because of pertussis outbreak

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Logan County Health District officials provided updates at their Wednesday afternoon meeting about a pertussis outbreak tied to Bellefontaine City Schools that led to extra precautions taken for end-of-the school year activities, including a planned eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C.

The first cases were reported April 22, with two elementary-age students affected with the respiratory illness.

Earlier this week, the health district reported that nine county residents had confirmed cases of pertussis.

Prior to the Bellefontaine Middle School eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. last week, health district representatives worked with the school officials to provide education about the illness and a course of action. School nurses reviewed student immunization records to ensure that pupils were up-to-date on their vaccinations that protect against pertussis, which are DTap and Tdap.

“The nursing staff at the school did a great job with the big task that they had of working through all of these files,” LCHD Nursing Director Kay Schroer said.

“It would not have been a popular decision, but we would have pulled someone from the trip who had not been immunized,” Logan County Health Commissioner Dr. Boyd Hoddinott said. “Fortunately, everyone was able to go on the trip.”

In a typical year, Logan County sees three to five pertussis cases per year. Last year, the county had 16 sporadic cases, but these cases were without common links, which is different from the cases that appear to be connected this year, LCHD officials said.

Pertussis also is known as whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound that is made when gasping for air after a fit of coughing making it hard to breathe. Coughing fits from pertussis infection can last for up to 10 weeks or more.

Whooping cough is generally treated with antibiotics to control the symptoms and prevent infected people from the spread of the disease. Some simple steps to keep pertussis from spreading include: washing hands with soap and water, covering coughs and sneezes, don’t share cups or silverware, and stay away from others until evaluated by physician.

Also during the nursing report, Mrs. Schroer reported on the measles, mumps and rubella immunization clinics that were offered to the local Amish community following a measles outbreak in Eastern Ohio. She said a total of 129 adults and children received the MMR vaccine during two clinics offered in the Belle Center area during May.

“They were very appreciative and receptive of the effort,” the nursing director said of the vaccine recipients.

A total of 225 measles cases have been confirmed in Eastern Ohio, and no such cases have been confirmed in Logan County, Dr. Hoddinott said.

In environmental health matters, the board issued an order to the YMCA of Central Ohio for a repeat Ohio Administrative Code violation at Camp Willson Ranch, 2732 County Road 11, Bellefontaine. A residential-type dishwasher is currently installed at the ranch building, and it does not meet the temperature and sanitation requirements.

The YMCA was ordered to remove the dishwasher within seven days. Craig Kauffman, environmental health director, said a triple sink exists at the facility, so the hand washing of dishes would be feasible when the dishwasher is removed.

Mr. Kauffman also provided an update on improvements made at the Blackhawk Inn, a former restaurant property located at 11543 State Route 365, Lakeview. Residents in the area had attended the May board of health meeting to ask for the condemnation of the property.

However, during the last month, the owner, Darrell Johnston of DeGraff, has made satisfactory updates to the facility to fulfill former board requirements, including repairing the roof, securing the facility from animal or human entry, removing solid waste to a licensed facility, and cleaning and securing the walk-in cooler and freezer, Mr. Kauffman said.

In other action, the board:

Read complete story in Thursday's Examiner.
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