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Whooping cough outbreak spreading in Kenosha County school

Posted at 10:25 PM, Nov 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-18 06:08:54-05

A health alert for parents, a highly contagious, and potentially deadly infection is spreading through schools in Southeast Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Health Department says 51 of the state's 72 counties have reported cases of whooping cough.  

The latest was at Westosha Central High School in Salem. 

"It's a little bit alarming that we have eight cases now," said mother Patti Worzalla.

The principal Lisa Albrecht said it's happened over two weeks.

"It's kind of coming sporadically. It's not coming a ton of kids all at one time," Albrecht said.

That is a big issue for junior Bret Duenkel. His mom said he is living with multiple organ failure.  So while this outbreak goes on he can't be a school.

"If he ended up with that virus and needed to go on a different antibiotic, we would have to put him in ICU," Worzalla said.

The principal said there are a few students at central with weakened immune systems. The school district said it is up to each student, their parent and doctor to decide if it's too risky to be in the classroom. 

Doctors suggest vaccinating children and adults throughout their lives for whooping cough, particularly family members of small infants.

"We need to make sure that everybody is vaccinated. The whooping cough  vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunizations beginning at two months of age," said Dr. Lyn Ranta from Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. 

The principal said they have cleaned classrooms and told students to wash their hands more often.  Parents hope the illness has run its course. 

"I want to be able to get my son back to school,"  Worzalla said.