FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFSM) — A second student at Woodland Jr. High has been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough) nearly a week after an unvaccinated student was also diagnosed, according to Alan Wilbourn with Fayetteville Public Schools.
On Thursday, April 4, Melissa Thomas, director of health services for Fayetteville Schools, said a student at Woodland Junior High School contracted whooping cough and may have exposed about 30 other students.
Those students and seven others who are exempt from vaccinations were sent a letter about meeting with their doctor to discuss the antibiotics. If the students failed to receive the antibiotic by Monday (April 8), they would be barred from school and school activities for 21 days. The medicines are Azithromycin or Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.
“Immunization records will be reviewed by the school nurse to see if an additional dose of pertussis vaccine is needed. You will be notified if your child needs this vaccine,” Wilbourn said. “All students should be observed for respiratory symptoms for the next 14 days. Anyone with a severe cough should be excluded from school and evaluated by a physician.”
State law requires children to receive a Tdap vaccine at 11 unless they’re exempt. There are three ways to become exempt from vaccinations through the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) which include religious, medical or philosophical reasons.
Gary Wheeler with the ADH said he understands exemptions, but the best way to avoid developing severe illnesses is to utilize the vaccinations to help prevent the diseases from becoming an issue.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whooping cough makes it hard to breathe and can affect people of all ages. But it can be severe, even deadly, for babies less than a year old, according to the CDC.
The CDC recommends whooping cough vaccines for people of all ages.
Wilborn says if you have questions to contact your physician, the Washington County Health Unit at 479-521-8181, or the Woodland school nurse, Kristen Scott at 479-445-1272.