Whooping cough cases in Arkansas causing concern in Oklahoma

Friday, November 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Some schools in Arkansas were closed Friday after whooping cough spread through one of the state's school districts. More than 225 cases are reported in at least 23 counties, and the count is rising.

News on Six reporter Glenda Silvey took a closer look at the concern for whooping cough in Tulsa. It's been awhile since Dr Donna Krutka has seen a case of whooping cough in Tulsa, but she's seeing plenty of cases of croop. While symptoms of croop are similar to pertussis, or whooping cough, the latter is far more serious. "This is a very debilitating disease. It causes terrible problems and children who get whooping cough can get sick for months and years and get asthma afterwards. Little ones can die."

Whooping cough is a serious respiratory infection, highly contagious, spread through droplets from a sneeze or cough. Symptoms include a runny nose, dry cough, and mild fever. After a week or two, coughing spells begin lasting more than a minute, create a "whoop sound" as the patient gasps for air. "They start coughing and coughing and coughing, and then they throw up."

Doctors say immunizations are crucial in preventing whooping cough. Public health departments administer free shots, including pertussis. The last shot in the series is given at age 7. Debbie Chambers, Epidemiologist: "After seven years, that immunity starts decreasing, and so adults are not given those vaccines so they could get pertussis and think they just have a bad cold and never go to the doctor. So many of those cases do go unreported."

Chambers says health departments routinely run surveillance on whooping cough outbreaks. But in the case of Arkansas, it's very important to know what's going on there. "It's such close proximity and we have a lot of people that go and visit."

Dr Krutka urges parents to make sure their children's DTP shots are on schedule.