METAIRIE, La. — After discovering five cases of a dangerous disease among their student body, officials at one Metairie school Friday decided to cancel classes for some grades, starting Summer vacation early for younger students.
This week, educators at Metairie Park Country Day School in Jefferson Parish discovered students showing symptoms of pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough.
After notifying the Louisiana Department of Health, state officials identified up to five students with the disease, which is a respiratory infection that can turn deadly in young children.
On Friday, Country Day officials announced the school will close its Early Childhood Center and Lower School beginning Monday, May 20 through the end of the school year on Friday, May 24.
"This is to ensure we minimize risk to our most vulnerable students and allows for a more thorough and complete sanitization of our facilities. We recognize this decision may inconvenience some of our families. Our commitment, first and foremost, is to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff," a statement said.
The closure does not extend to Country Day's Middle School and Upper School. officials said. The Lower School is grades Pre-K to fifth grade.
School leaders said they worked with the health department, local pediatricians and other doctors to make their decision.
While serious, the disease is considered common with almost 50,000 cases reported in the U.S. each year and with many more unreported, according to health officials.
Ochsner pediatrician Doctor Mike Wasserman said he has seen patients who have come in to make sure they did not have Whooping Cough. The current vaccine schedule is at 2, 4, 6, and 18 months, again at 4-years-old, then the final dose at 11 years of age. He said he is not surprised that vaccinated children are getting sick.
"We had an old vaccine that we used in the United States till about 15 or 18 years ago. We switched over nationally to get rid of the side effects but the newer version of the vaccine, which is quite safe, doesn't seem to give quite as long immunity," Wasserman said.
So, if you're school-age, in between vaccines at 4 years of age and 11 years of age, there's not much you can do.
"There's no recommendation at this point to get an additional dose of pertussis and whooping cough vaccine," Wasserman said.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story reported that the vaccine schedule for pertussis includes a vaccination at 24 months of age. The story has been updated to reflect the regularly schedule dosage actually happens at 48 months, or 4-years-old.