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Wellesley schools warn parents of pneumonia cases

Posted by Daniel Adams  October 21, 2011 05:04 PM

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A contagious form of pneumonia has been reported among a small number of students in several Wellesley elementary schools, according to a letter from superintendent Bella Wong to families and staff sent earlier today.

The outbreak of mycoplasma pneumonia, also known as "walking pneumonia," started among first-grade students at the Schofield School, Wong said. Despite notifying Schofield parents and stepping up surveillance and preventative measures such as hand-washing, isolated cases have since been reported at other elementary schools.

Wong, in a phone interview, said that only about a half-dozen students had been diagnosed with the disease.

Wong said that while this was the first such outbreak in her tenure as superintendent, it was not uncommon for area school districts to experience similar outbreaks as the winter flu season approaches.

"We’re just trying to stay on top of it and make people aware," Wong said. "Our health department is doing great, giving us good advice, and we're just passing that along."

That advice centers around improved hygiene, Wong said.

To help prevent spread of the illness, teachers have reviewed hand-washing and coughing etiquette with elementary school students. Parents are being encouraged to reinforce proper hygiene at home. Teachers have also changed seating arrangements to increase the distance between students.

Officials are also urging parents to keep any symptomatic students at home until they are feeling better, have been fever-free without medication for 24 hours, or have been on antibiotics for 24 hours.

Wong said she sent the letter to all public school parents out of an abundance of caution, since elementary students could expose older siblings and their friends to the pneumonia.

Mycoplasma pneumonia is a relatively common variety of pneumonia, and symptoms are usually mild, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia and the National Library of Medicine. Symptoms can last one to three weeks and include chest pain, cough and fever.

Parents with questions can contact the nurse at their child's school or the Wellesley Health Department at (781) 235-0135.

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