According to a spokeswoman with Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, eight cases of pertussis, known more commonly as whooping cough, have been confirmed at two schools in the Olympia School District.
Seven of the medically-confirmed cases are at Lincoln Elementary School downtown and one is at McKenny Elementary School, which is located on Morse-Merryman Road in SE Olympia. The bacterial infection is spread rapidly through the air.
It is state law that all children are vaccinated for pertussis, but there are exemptions, and vaccinated children are still at-risk of the infection. “Even if you’ve been vaccinated for pertussis, your immunity wanes over time, but can nonetheless reduce the severity of the illness,” said the county spokeswoman.
In 2015, it was reported that Lincoln Elementary, a K-5 alternative-ed “Options” program, had a nearly 30% opt-out rate of required vaccines – the highest of any school in Thurston County.
In the event of a major outbreak, schools are allowed under state law to exclude from school any students, staff, or volunteers who are not vaccinated.