The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is investigating an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) atClintonIntermediateSchoolinClinton. Health Department medical professionals are working closely with local doctors and the school to reduce the spread of the disease.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria.
“We have confirmed cases at the school and more who have some of the early symptoms, so we are concerned that we may soon see more illness at the school and in the community if we don’t take action to contain the spread of the illness,” said Gary Wheeler, MD, ADH branch chief for Infectious Disease.
ADH is currently providing booster vaccines for all students at the school. .Antibiotics are being provided to children with symptoms consistent with whooping cough to prevent spread of the infection. Some students should not attend school until their antibiotics are completed or until a primary immunization series is completed.
Symptoms of pertussis usually develop within 7 to 10 days after being exposed and include:
- persistent, rapid coughing fits
- a “whooping” sound, caused by rapid intake of air following a coughing fit
- vomiting caused by extreme coughing
- exhaustion after coughing fits
Individuals with these symptoms or anyone who thinks they may have been exposed should contact their doctor for evaluation.
The best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated. Children should receive four doses of the DTaP vaccine by 15 months of age and an additional dose of DTaP before they start school. Since many infants who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents and other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease, it is important for other age groups to be vaccinated. Adolescents and adults should receive the Tdap vaccine recommended for ages 10 through 64 years.
The DTaP and Tdap vaccines are available from your family physician or from Van Buren County Local Health Unit. If you have insurance, please bring your cards with you to the local health unit. If you don’t have insurance, the vaccine will be provided at no charge to you.