The whooping cough has come to Kentucky, and the bacterially caused illness is causing its first outbreak in Kentucky in several years.
"We're seeing it all over the state," said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, the state epidemiologist in the Department of Public Health.
In recent years, the state has seen between eight and 60 cases of whooping cough. This year, Humbaugh expects more than 100 cases.
This year's outbreak is most severe in counties surrounding Elizabethtown.
Whooping cough, which also is called pertussis, is caused by a type of bacteria. The illness is most severe for young children and those with compromised immune systems.
For adults, the cough can be annoying and a nuisance. For children who haven't been vaccinated or are too young to be vaccinated, it can be deadly.
Children are vaccinated against the disease starting at 2 months and receive booster shots until they are school age, but the immunity wears off five to 10 years later, Humbaugh said.
A new vaccine is available for those 10 and older, but many people have not received that vaccine, he said.
In Franklin County, the health department might begin vaccinating students, said Janevera Rothenburger, the health coordinator for the Franklin County Schools.
The schools have seen nine confirmed cases in the last month; four of them are at Franklin County High School.
Staff members are encouraging students to wash their hands and cover their coughs, Rothenburger said. Students with confirmed cases have to stay home for five days if they get treatment or 21 days if they don't.
In addition, the health department is contacting parents of all students who spend more than an hour within 3 feet of an infected child, Rothenburger said. Those students are being treated as well.
The district and health department are considering giving students booster immunizations, starting with high school students, Rothenburger said.
Reach Sarah Vos at (859) 231-3309 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3309.