OKLAHOMA CITY -- Incoming Oklahoma seventh graders will have a new requirement before going to school this fall. All students entering the seventh grade will be required to have a dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acelluar pertussis vaccine) before the start of the 2011-12 school year.
The new immunization will help fight the spread of whooping cough in Oklahoma schools and communities, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Thousands of cases of whooping cough have been diagnosed in California and Texas.
"While Oklahoma has been fortunate thus far in avoiding an outbreak of whooping cough, we did see an increase in the number of cases reported in the state last year," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.
"One hundred seventy cases were reported in 2010 compared to 100 cases in 2009. We are hopeful that this new vaccine requirement will help assure our students, families and communities are protected against this dangerous disease."
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a potentially deadline infection marked by a "whoop" made when gasping for breath. Vomiting after coughing fits is also an indicator of the disease.
Whooping cough can strike people of any age but is particularly dangerous for babies. Health department officials recommend parents of sixth graders get the vaccination for their children as soon as possible rather than waiting for closer to next fall.
They also recommend students of that age get meningitis and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines, although these vaccines are not currently required for school entry.
Tdap vaccine is available from doctors, clinics, and county health departments statewide.
For more information about the vaccine, contact your health care provider or the county health department in your area.