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FAYETTEVILLE -- Some junior high school students are being required to take antibiotics after a student was diagnosed with whooping cough, a school official confirmed.

An unvaccinated Woodland Junior High student was diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough, a contagious disease involving the respiratory tract, said Melissa Thomas, director of health services for Fayetteville Public Schools. The case was confirmed Wednesday.

Coughing fits from whooping cough can make it difficult to breathe and can be life-threatening for some people, especially infants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All parents were notified of the diagnosis, but only parents of approximately 30 students who were in close contact with the diagnosed student and seven students exempt from vaccinations were sent a letter instructing them to see a doctor about antibiotics, Thomas said.

Parents can apply with the Arkansas Department of Health to have their children exempt from vaccinations for medical, religious or philosophical reasons, according to the department.

"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," according to the letter. "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."

The letter is signed by Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist.

School staff members in close proximity to the student were instructed to seek antibiotics from a doctor, Thomas said. Staff members, however, would not be banned from attending school for not taking antibiotics because they are adults.

The student who was diagnosed will not be allowed back at school until being cleared by the Department of Health, Thomas said. At the earliest it would be Monday, she said.

If any students are banned from school for not getting antibiotics, they will be allowed to make up their school work, she said.

The CDC recommends DTaP and Tdap vaccines to prevent whooping cough, according to the agency's website.

Arkansas law requires children to receive a Tdap vaccine at age 11 unless they are exempt, Thomas said.

Students may either take azithromycin for five days or trimethorpim-sulfamethoxazole for 14 days, according to the letter.

Metro on 04/05/2019

Print Headline: Warning issued after pertussis diagnosis

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