The Department of Health and Environmental Control said six cases of whooping cough have now been confirmed in Spartanburg District Five.

Melissa Robinette said the ill students attend Abner Creek Elementary and Beech Springs Intermediate School. Robinette said DHEC sent a letter to parents on May 7 warning them about signs of whooping cough and what to look for.

Due to miscommunication between the district and health officials, Robinette said initially it was reported on May 8 that four students were diagnosed, but it was in fact three. The district confirmed that three additional students have been diagnosed since last week, bringing the total to 6 students.

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Of the 3 students reported diagnosed on May 16, the district said two were from Berry Shoals Intermediate and one is from Beech Springs Intermediate. The district said the first case was reported at Beech Springs last week.

Both principals made a call to parents on May 16 about the situation, and a letter from DHEC will be sent home with students as well, according to the district.

As an extra precaution, the district plans to do an additional cleaning of the affected schools.

According to DHEC, whooping cough, also called pertussis, is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. The illness starts with symptoms similar to those of a common cold, but the coughing becomes more severe after one to two weeks and may be accompanied by a “whoop” sound.

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DHEC said whooping cough was once one of the most common causes of childhood deaths before a vaccine was created.

Students are required to have the vaccine, called the Tdap vaccine, before beginning school in South Carolina and must have a booster shot before entering the seventh grade, Robinette said.

“However, South Carolina is one of many states that allows exemptions to vaccinations for religious reasons,” Robinette stated.

Robinette said students who have been vaccinated are protected against the disease but she said news of the current illnesses can serve as a good reminder to parents.

“Make sure to get vaccines and boosters for children who need them this summer before they head into kindergarten and seventh grades in the fall,” she said. “At the start of each school year, we have to turn some students away because their vaccinations are incomplete.”

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