School nurses on the lookout for a contagious disease this Fall - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

School nurses on the lookout for a contagious disease this Fall


Health officials are on the lookout for a contagious disease as kids return to school. 

And it's not measles.

Two years ago Central Texas saw a record number of cases of pertussis, better known as "whooping cough."

And experts say this year Central Texas could see record spikes again.

"I know the counties that border us are seeing increase numbers so its stands to reason that there is a good chance that our numbers will go up when school starts because children are like little petri dishes and when they get together they infect each other," said Lacey Sanders, the Disease Surveillance Coordinator for the Bell County Public Health.

Two confirmed cases have been reported on Fort Hood this week, according to Sanders.

This has some alarmed because only three cases were confirmed over the entire summer in Bell County.

"Yes," said Charlotte Smith, Coordinator of Health Services at Belton when asked if she thought it was alarming, "because it has been in one week. We saw something like that two years ago, nothing last year but as kids go back to school, we are in closed classrooms and its much easier to spread disease when we are close to each other."

That "spreading" phase could last as long as twenty days.

"The unfortunate thing about pertussis is that you're infectious for 20 days, so for 20 days while you are coughing you're actually spreading the bacterium, so you can contaminate other people," said Sanders.

The good news is that it is vaccine preventable.  And it's why nurses are keeping a special eye out for the respiratory disease before school starts.

"It's very important that we mention it specifically because we do know that there is more cases than normal," said Smith.

"So its very important that nurses know the signs and the symptoms and that they know the process that will follow when a teacher or we suspect that a child might show the signs because we want to catch it as quickly as possible," she said.

Sanders tells parents to look for difficulty catching breathe between coughs, this causes the "whooping sound."  She also says to be aware of vomiting or gagging after coughing and blue lips.



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