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By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – A clinic offering pertussis, or whooping cough vaccine to students, families and teachers at the Gilbert Stuart Middle School was held on Nov. 21, after a student was diagnosed with the disease on Nov. 15.
The clinic was sponsored by the Providence School Department and the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by coughing. Following the diagnosis, the infected student and 22 other close contacts of the student were offered antibiotics, according to the R.I. Department of Health.
In 2010, there were 44 reported cases of pertussis, which was considered “a typical year,” R.I. Department of Health spokeswoman Annemarie Beardsworth
Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes worse over one to two weeks, according to health agency officials. Symptoms can include a long series of coughs (coughing fits) followed by a whooping noise or a fever. Infants less than one year of age, and particularly under six months, are most likely to experience severe illness if they develop pertussis. All close contacts of infants should be vaccinated with one dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine.
“Cases like this demonstrate how important health insurance coverage is for our state’s children,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, noting that there were more than 14,000 uninsured children under the age of 18 in Rhode Island. “Ensuring that RIte Care is available to low-income children and their families means that our kids will receive regular preventive health care and timely vaccinations. It is crucial that Rhode Island leaders continue to implement policies that keep RIte Care strong, high-quality and affordable.”