Unvaccinated student’s illness forces peers to take antibiotics to attend Ark. school

An unvaccinated student in Arkansas was diagnosed with whooping cough, so now other junior high students have to take antibiotics in order to come to class, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, “is a highly contagious respiratory disease,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Woodland Junior High student was not vaccinated against the disease, the director of health services for Fayetteville Public Schools said, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

That student may have exposed 30 other students to the disease, health director Melissa Thomas said, according to KFSM.

All parents were notified about the student’s whooping cough diagnosis, KNWA reported, but only those who “were in close contact” need antibiotics.

Those 30 students — in addition to seven other people “exempt from vaccinations” — were sent a letter about needing to see a doctor regarding the antibiotics, KFSM reported.

Here’s what the letter sent to parents on April 3 says, according to a copy obtained by KNWA:

If your child does not receive the antibiotic by April 8, 2019, he/she will be excluded from attending school and school activities until approved to return by the Arkansas Department of Health. This exclusion period will be a minimum of 21 days.

“Immunization records will be reviewed to see if an additional dose of pertussis vaccine is needed. You will be notified if your child needs vaccine.”

Whooping cough “is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe,” the CDC says.

It spreads “from person to person,” the CDC says, and it can be spread by coughing or sneezing around others. The CDC says people are “most contagious” for about two weeks once they start coughing.

The department recommends the DTaP and Tdap vaccine to prevent whooping cough.

“The best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated,” the CDC says.

Antibiotics are used to treat whooping cough.

“Healthcare providers generally treat pertussis with antibiotics and early treatment is very important,” the CDC says. “Treatment may make your infection less serious if you start it early, before coughing fits begin. Treatment can also help prevent spreading the disease to close contacts (people who have spent a lot of time around the infected person).”