LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - It's a highly contagious illness seeing a big spike across the country right now.
Cases of whooping cough are reaching 18,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's more than twice the amount from last year at this time.
State health officials tell Today's THV that we're not experiencing the huge increases other places are right now like Washington State. But they are still urging folks, no matter how old you are, to get vaccinated and protected from the bacterial disease, also known as the Cough of 100 days.
Abby Francis and her mom spent part of Wednesday at the Pope County Health Department. They're taking care of those back-to-school vaccinations.
"Did it hurt at all?" THV's Max Seigle asks.
"No, not really?" Abby Francis said. "Just a prick at first and then I couldn't even feel it."
Francis had a TDAP shot that includes protection from pertussis, also known as whopping cough.
"I've heard of it, I've heard a lot about it and it's something I don't want her to get you know, I want to protect her from it," Melissa Francis said.
"A pertussis-containing vaccine is recommended for everyone," said Dr. Dirk Haselow, Director of the Communicable Disease and Immunizations at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Dr. Haslow says that's for one simple reason.
"It's a very easily transmitted germ from person-to-person just by coughing or being in the same room while someone is breathing," Dr. Haselow.
Dr. Haselow says the hallmark to this illness is a loud, prolonged cough. He says that more serious cases often hit infants under a year and the elderly.
"They may cough so hard that they break a rib," Dr. Haselow said of the elderly.
It's making it even more important for those surrounding the more vulnerable to get the vaccine and help everyone stay healthy.
"I'd rather be in school and choir I'm taking this year and art and with my friends than at home in bed," Abby Francis said.
Dr. Haselow says Arkansas has averaged about 80 cases of whooping cough the past two years but five years ago we had 600 cases.
He says a big concern now is the growing number of exemptions the state allows for these vaccinations for philosophical, medical and educational reasons. He feels that could create problems especially with children.
As for any fatal outcomes, Dr. Haselow says it can be with infants under six months; their bodies can often be too weak to handle the vaccination. Whopping cough, however, is generally treated with antibiotics and early treatment is important.
Pam Sanders, Administrator of the Pope County Health Department, says vaccinations are available at county health departments statewide. She urges folks to call soon for an appointment if you need one for kids going back to school.
You can learn more about whooping cough from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by clicking here.