One of Waco’s largest church congregations has shut down two of its children’s Sunday school classes after discovering two children who attend the services contracted whooping cough last month.
Antioch Community Church voluntarily closed the classes June 30 to prevent the spread of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, Executive Pastor Jeff Abshire said. The classes will reopen July 28.
“We wanted to give the whole 21-day incubation period before the classrooms reopen,” Abshire said. “To our knowledge, there have not been any further diagnoses at the church.”
On a typical Sunday, about 3,500 congregants attend services at Antioch, 505 N. 20th St., Abshire said. That number includes 900 children.
The Waco-McLennan County Public Health District announced last week that it is investigating three related cases of whooping cough. Related cases have more potential to spread, health district spokeswoman Kelly Craine said.
No other cases have been reported since then, she said by email.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by a type of bacteria that attach to the tiny, hair-like extensions that line part of the upper respiratory system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria release toxins that damage the extensions and cause the airways to swell.
Infected individuals are most contagious up to two weeks after the cough starts, although antibiotics can shorten that time frame, according to the CDC.
Abshire said the two children diagnosed with pertussis did not attend the same Sunday school class, so it is unclear if the disease spread at the church or outside its walls.
Antioch has multiple child ministry classes on Sundays, Abshire said. The classes are separated by age, and ages range from newborns to kindergarten-aged kids and elementary school-age children.
The two classes that have been temporarily shut down include a “crawler” class and a class for 1-year-olds, Abshire said.
Pertussis usually spreads from person to person by coughing or sneezing, or when people spend a lot of time near each other, sharing the same breathing space, according to the CDC. Many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who may not know they have the disease.
Treatment for pertussis generally includes antibiotics. The best form of prevention is vaccines, according to the CDC, but vaccine protection erodes over time. The CDC recommends pertussis vaccines for people of all ages.
Infants and children should get five doses of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis immunization for maximum protection, according to the CDC. Babies receive the vaccine at 2, 4 and 6 months of age and again at 15 to 18 months. Children also receive the vaccine from age 4 to 6, and a booster should be given to preteens at 11 or 12 years old.