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Published On: Sun, Nov 18th, 2012

Arkansas health officials investigate pertussis outbreak at Clinton school

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is investigating an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) at Clinton Intermediate School in Clinton. Health Department medical professionals are working closely with local doctors and the school to reduce the spread of the disease.

Image/CDC James Gathany

According to Gary Wheeler, MD, ADH branch chief for Infectious Disease, “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.”

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, according to a press release Wednesday.

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. This vaccine-preventable disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route.

Pertussis goes through a series of stages in the infected person; initially an irritating cough followed by repeated, violent coughing. The disease gets its nickname by coughing without inhaling air giving the characteristic high-pitched whoop. Certain populations may not have the typical whoop like infants and adults.

It is highly communicable, especially in very early stages and the beginning of coughing episodes, for approximately the first 2 weeks. Then the communicability gradually decreases and at 3 weeks it is negligible, though the cough my last for months.

Those that are not immunized are susceptible to this disease. Young infants and school aged children (who are frequently the source of infection for younger siblings) are at greatest risk.

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.

For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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