Single confirmed case of pertussis (whooping cough) at the Rhinebeck High School


As a follow-up to my e-mail to you this past Thursday, please be aware that the Dutchess County Department of Health notified us today that the suspected case of pertussis at Rhinebeck High School is now a confirmed case.  However, this in no way changes the recommendations and precautions issued by the DCDOH last week, as outlined below, which we passed along to you on Thursday.  As always, the best course of action is to contact your personal health-care provider for medical advice if you have any questions or concerns.


Joseph L. Phelan

Superintendent of Schools

Rhinebeck Central School District

 Please read on for letter:


This communication will serve to inform you that we received notification today of a single suspected case of pertussis (whooping cough) in our high school. We have been in contact with the Dutchess County Department of Health for information and advice.  At this time, especially in the absence of a confirmed case, the DOH’s recommendation is that we provide all of our parents with information about pertussis so you can be aware of the symptoms and take appropriate action at home if necessary.  Health officials advise that vaccination is the key to combatting the spread of pertussis, and that being aware of the symptoms is an important factor in accessing appropriate medical care if necessary.  

 The Dutchess County Department of Health suggests that we inform our parents of the following: A person who has been around someone with pertussis may become sick with pertussis as well. This is especially true when people have not been fully vaccinated. Sometimes even if vaccines are up to date, a person may still be able to get pertussis. There is a new vaccine called Tdap that can boost protection against pertussis. It is highly recommended for all persons over the age of 11 years who have received the primary pertussis-containing vaccine series.  Tdap is now approved for all adults.

  • Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough which becomes much worse over 1-2 weeks. Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (“coughing fits”) followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. There is generally only a slight fever. People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching breath. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.
  • The incubation period for pertussis is 7 – 20 days.  Persons are infectious for only the first 3 weeks following the onset of cough, even without antibiotics.  All persons havingclose contact (which typically means household members, persons sharing food or beverages and kissing) with a known infected person should receive preventative antibiotic treatment from their primary care provider.
  • A person who has been in close contact with someone with pertussis, may avoid becoming ill with antibiotics. If it is longer than 21 days since the exposure, antibiotics will not prevent infection. 
  • If you or your child is already having any of the symptoms described above, you should consult with a health care provider.   Giving antibiotics early can help someone get well faster and lower the chances of spreading the infection to others. Persons diagnosed with confirmed or suspected pertussis should not return to school until they have taken 5 days of antibiotic treatment.
  • Please be aware that there have been a large volume of positive cases of pertussis noted throughout Dutchess County this year.

 Therefore, please consider the following Department of Health recommendations:

1.  Infants under one year old, especially those under six months, are most likely to have severe symptoms if they develop pertussis. When possible, young infants should be kept away from people with a cough. Infants with any coughing illness should be seen promptly by their doctor.

2.  The primary pertussis vaccine series is given to children under 7 years old. If you have children less than 7 years of age who have not been completely immunized against pertussis (particularly infants under one year), the DOH recommends that you talk to your child’s health care provider about the benefits of vaccination.  Persons 7 years and older can benefit from a new vaccine against pertussis known as Tdap. Receiving this vaccine will not provide protection from this exposure but will provide future protection. Pertussis is a persistent problem in our community.

 The Health Department recommends that parents: A) talk to their child’s health care provider if they or

their child comes down with cold symptoms that include a cough and B) tell the doctor that pertussis may have been present in their child’s school setting.

 If you have further concerns or questions, please contact your doctor or the Dutchess County

Department of Health at 845-486-3402. 


 Joseph L. Phelan

Superintendent of Schools

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