The Arkansas Department of Health notified parents of Conway High School on Wednesday of a case of pertussis, or whooping cough, at the school.

Parents of children identified as being in close contact with the case were notified, according to the message from the health department that was provided by administrators at the school.

Parents were told if their child did not receive an antibiotic by Monday, March 17, he or she would be excluded from attending school and school activities until approved to return by the Arkansas Department of Health.

The exclusion period will be a minimum of 21 days, according to the letter provided to parents.

Immunization records were to be reviewed to see if additional doses of the pertussis vaccine would be needed, and parents of children who had not been vaccinated would be notified if their child needed the vaccine.

All students should be observed for respiratory symptoms for the next 12 days. Anyone with a severe cough should be excluded from school and evaluated by a physician, the health department stated in the letter.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious disease involving the respiratory tract. It is caused by a bacterium that is found in the nose and throat of an infected person.

Pertussis can occur at any age and is primarily spread by direct contact with discharges from the nose and throat of infected individuals. Frequently, older siblings who may be harboring the bacteria in their nose and throat can bring the disease home and infect an infant in the household.

Pertussis begins as a mild upper respiratory infection with initial symptoms that mimic a common cold. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a crowing or high pitched whoop.

Symptoms appear six to 20 days after contact, but typically in seven to ten days.

Those with questions are asked to contact physicians or the Faulkner County Health Unit at 450-4941.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at