Public health officials have not identified any students who were exposed to pertussis yet not vaccinated

The Newberg School District announced Feb. 20 that new cases of whooping cough have been reported at Antonia Crater and Edwards elementary schools, bringing the number of cases in the district to four.

According to a release, one case has been confirmed at Antonia Crater, while a presumptive case was reported at Edwards but has not been confirmed by a blood test.

Yamhill County Public Health officials have continued to identify students that may have been exposed following the appearance of new cases. Otherwise they are still following the same procedures: advising school families to be aware of symptoms and go to the doctor if they are found, but most of all stressing the importance of getting vaccinated.

Nursing programs manager Lindsey Manfren said that one situation that would cause an escalated response from Yamhill County Public Health would be the identification of a lot of people needing the vaccine who are not vaccinated.

If so, the organization would go into the community to provide vaccinations, but she said that hasn’t been the case.

“If we do continue to see a number of cases pop up again, likely our next step would be to make an official press release just for awareness,” Manfren said. “Right now our focus has been on the schools themselves.

We haven’t had any other cases outside of the schools, so getting notices out to guardians and parents has been our priority."

According to Manfren, public health officials have not identified any students who may have been exposed, but not vaccinated, which could have lead to their exclusion from school.

Ironically, the state’s deadline for parents to submit their children’s vaccinations records to their school fell on Feb. 19, just one day before the latest cases were announced. Parents of children without vaccinations on file are alerted by letter two weeks before the exclusion deadline, which tends to be followed by a rush of vaccinations for a week or two, according to Manfren.

“We’re feeling pretty confident about the immunization rates at this point,” she said. “Overall in the county, we’ve seen less and less kids need to be excluded for those reasons and less and less notifications having to come out from Public Health. Those are all good signs.”

County public health officials do not have information broken down to the level of knowing how many students in a district, let alone a school, haven’t received a specific vaccine such as for pertussis. Manfren added that the information could be gathered, but that it would require a lot more time and manpower to process it. Schools are required by law to provide information on unvaccinated students to county health officials a month before the exclusion deadline.

In the grander scheme, Manfren noted that while Oregon has seen the number of pertussis cases rise in recent years, it hasn’t seen the increases that California and Washington have.

“There is certainly a lot more availability of the vaccines with more pharmacies carrying it,” Manfren said. “We hope that making it more accessible to more people will in turn help those immunization rates be higher and therefore decrease the amount of pertussis we’re seeing.”

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