School District 9-R has reported a case of pertussis - aka whooping cough - in a student at Riverview School. The sick child is out of school and being treated, but San Juan Basin Health Department is urging all district students and staff to get vaccinated for pertussis as soon as possible.
It is good advice for the rest of us, too. In truth, that may even be more important.
Pertussis is one of the vaccinations required for schoolchildren. Even so, some cases still occur. Not all kids are immunized for one reason or another. Some children also contract the disease before they have developed full immunity, which requires a series of five shots.
We often think of pertussis as a childhood disease, particularly in that it can be deadly in children. But the actual reservoir of pertussis is in adults, where the disease can be mistaken for other conditions or misdiagnosed.
As such, the Health Department also recommends that teens and adults be vaccinated against pertussis, at least once. But because a pertussis vaccine for adults has only been available for a few years, many adults have not yet received it.
The importance of that goes to the nature of vaccination, which works in two ways. It affords the individual protection against contracting that particular disease. But it is also helps control the spread of the disease by reducing the number of individuals who can infect others.
Officials can actually stop some epidemics by quickly vaccinating people to establish a cordon of immunization around the outbreak. The most prolific killer of human beings in recorded history - smallpox - was effectively eradicated (small samples exist in laboratories in the United States and Russia) by vaccination.
Getting vaccinated is not only sensible in terms of personal health, it is the socially responsible thing to do. It is essentially a civic duty, not unlike how trimming flammable brush protects the neighbors' homes from fire as well.
Parents who are unsure should check their children's immunization status. Adults, too, can check with their doctors to ensure that they have had a pertussis shot.
For anyone who needs one, San Juan Basin Health Department will hold a pertussis vaccination clinic from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at its office at 281 Sawyer Drive in Bodo Park. A donation of $14.70 is requested, but no one will be turned away for lack of money.
Life involves inevitable hardships, but whooping cough is not one of them. It can and should be prevented. If you have not been, please get vaccinated.