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ITHACA, N.Y. — Two cases of whooping cough have been identified in children at Cayuga Heights Elementary School and Lehman Alternative Community School. One case has also been identified at Newfield High School.

The Ithaca City School District notified parents Tuesday that whooping cough, also called pertussis, has been identified in the district and said their children might have been exposed. One case has been identified in Cayuga Heights and another at LACS, the district said.

Dr. Cheryl Thomas, superintendent of the Newfield Central School District, also said one case has been identified in the high school.

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial infection spread by air through coughing or sneezing. The infection usually begins with cold-like symptoms and gets worse over a period of one to two weeks. Symptoms include a long series of coughs followed by a whooping noise, the district said in a letter to parents. The severe cough can last for weeks or months and sometimes lead to coughing fits and/or vomiting. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicine usually does not help alleviate the cough.

► Fact sheet about pertussis from Tompkins County Health Department

Anyone can get whooping cough, but it is especially dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems.

The district said the Tompkins County Health Department is not recommending preventive antibiotics for children at this time.

The best way to prevent against whooping cough is through vaccines, the health department says.

The Tompkins County Health Department sent out the following recommendations:

  • If your child has a cough:
    • Keep your child home from school and activities, such as sports or play groups. Make an appointment with your child’s doctor as soon as possible and tell the doctor that your child may have been exposed to pertussis. A special nose swab test will probably be done followed by antibiotic prescription.
    • Be sure to keep your child who is coughing at home, out of school and away from extended family and friends, until five days of the antibiotic are
    • If your child is diagnosed with pertussis, call the school to inform
  • Make sure your family’s vaccinations are up-to-date. The single most effective control measure is maintaining the highest possible level of immunization in the community. Protection against pertussis from the childhood vaccine, DTaP, decreases over time. Older children and adults, including pregnant women, should get a pertussis booster vaccine called Tdap. If you need the Tdap vaccine, contact your doctor or call the Tompkins County Health Department.

The district said anyone with further concerns or questions should contact their doctor or Melissa Gatch at the Tompkins County Health Department at 607-274-6604.

Featured image by Adrian Clark/Flickr

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.