By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — LONDONDERRY — There is now an official outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) at Londonderry Middle School.
A letter sent to parents yesterday confirmed a staff member has been diagnosed with the highly contagious disease.
The state Department of Health and Human Services considers it an outbreak when three people within the same school are diagnosed with the communicable disease.
That also means students who are exempt from immunization can't go to school during an outbreak of a disease for which an immunization is available, according to RSA 141. That includes pertussis.
Parents received a letter late last month, informing them that a student at the school had been diagnosed with the disease.
The school warned parents it's quite possible others may be diagnosed with the disease. It takes about 10 to 12 days after exposure for symptoms to appear. It begins much like a cold, but after a week or two, a persistent cough becomes severe.
Cough medicine doesn't help and that stage of the disease can last from one to six weeks. Early treatment can reduce symptoms and also reduce the odds of the infected person spreading the disease.
Pertussis is spread through contact with spray from an infected person's coughs or sneezes, or sharing utensils or drink containers. A person with pertussis remains infectious until three weeks after the severe coughing stage of the disease starts.
Parents are invited to call Kim Carpinone, director of student services, at 432-6920, Ext. 1113, with questions.
The last day of school is Friday.