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Whooping cough closes school

Classes scheduled to resume this week

DALLAS -- Faith Christian School closed on Thursday, Jan. 20 because of health concerns related to an outbreak of illness in the Alsea area.

On Jan. 19 the Alsea School District (a small district located between Corvallis and the coast) closed after being hit by a flu-like illness. Alsea students and staff began reporting symptoms on Tuesday, Jan. 11. By Jan. 19 more than a hundred people had contracted the respiratory ailment.

During that week, the Faith Christian girl's basketball team played at Alsea High School.

When a handful of the Alsea students where found to have pertussis (whooping cough) and more students fell ill to an unrelated respiratory virus, Faith Christian principal Candice Thomas called a local physician and asked for advice.

"He suggested that we send the juniors and seniors home at least," Thomas said.

However, since the school already had a three-day weekend planned, Thomas decided to play it safe and send all students home.

The doctor said whooping cough has a three day incubation period. Thomas figured that if any of her students had been exposed to either the whooping cough bacteria or the flu virus while in Alsea, their symptoms would be evident by Tuesday when school was scheduled to resume.

"We didn't want to get all of Dallas sick. So hopefully, if anybody had it, it has been contained," Thomas said.

Testing has confirmed that the flu virus is present in Benton County, as is whooping cough. The illnesses are quite different and can easily be distinguished.

Sufferers from whooping cough will have spasms of severe coughing which conclude with a loud "whoop" sound from the rapid intake of air. Fever is not usually associated but other cold symptoms are, such as runny nose.

Health officials said that anyone with a cough that has lasted more than a week should see a doctor.

People can reduce the spread of airborne illnesses by washing their hands, covering their mouths when they sneeze and cough, and properly disposing of used tissues. And, of course, people who are sick should stay home and not expose others.

Faith Christian School and the Alsea School District were scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

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