According to department officials several cases have been confirmed, with roughly a dozen students showing symptoms of the infection at this point.
Cassandra Kirkpatrick's son Ian attends Clinton Intermediate, and when his persistent cough became a bark, she wanted to know why.
"It was like a seal, it was a really strange cough," she said.
A phone call from the school, giving her a heads up that a doctor's appointment was in order.
"I got the phone call through the automated system saying one confirmed case had been detected in the district," she said. "They didn't identify my son's school, but I immediately made an appointment with the doctor. He's been through the round of antibiotics, so he's not contagious, but the cough is still there."
While pertussis, more commonly known as Whooping Cough, starts out with symptoms similar to the cold, it progresses to a persistent nagging cough.
"There's usually no fever or a low fever with pertussis," said Arkansas Department of Health Branch Chief for Infectious Disease Gary Wheeler. "Sometimes children will cough to the point that they vomit."
"He would get to coughing, and it would scare him and he would think he was choking," Kirkpatrick said.
The Department of Health is working with the school district to contain the infection to the intermediate school.
"It's a highly infectious agent and it can spread relatively quickly and involve a lot of people," Wheeler said. "But we do believe we can control this outbreak with immunizations, antibiotics, isolating those who are infected (to some degree) and identifying vulnerable individuals."
Those who are most vulnerable to the infection include infants, older adults with chronic health issues, and pregnant women. Those children who have not been vaccinated against pertussis are also at risk.
But the scary part for parents is that most of the students affected in this case are just like Kirkpatrick's kids.
"They're up to date on their immunizations they've been immunized for it," she said. "But apparently, that doesn't mean your child won't catch it."
"What concerns us is the vaccines we're using may not be as potent as we hoped they would be," Wheeler said. "There may be a need for more frequent vaccinations and boosters for children than what we originally thought."
While there are fewer cases of Whooping Cough in the United States than in the 1920s, a steady incline has been seen over the past 10 to 15 years.
Whooping cough, or at least its sound, is unmistakable to most parents and doctors. But unvaccinated adults may not realize that they can spread the sickness, often mistaking it for allergies or a cold.
"The vaccine for adolescents and adults has been on the market for about five years now. We had hoped getting adults vaccinated would help curb the increase," Wheeler said. "But right now, a rough estimate is that less than 10 percent of adults have been vaccinated. They think they have allergies or attribute their cough to asthma or smoking. But really they have pertussis, are very infectious and are a huge reservoir for the persistence of pertussis in the greater community."
Kirkpatrick usually encourages her kids to share everything, but with Ian sick she has to keep a close eye on his younger brother, who is part of the vulnerable category.
"Riley is my five-year-old, and he has asthma," she said. "I'm keeping a close eye on him, and if he shows any symptoms we're heading to the doctor."
She's following the advice she'd give to other parents across the state.
"My philosophy is it's always better to be safe than sorry," she said.
The Department of Health has already partnered with local physicians to get those students who have cases of pertussis in and medicated.
Department officials will be at Clinton Intermediate School on Wednesday to administer vaccines for unvaccinated children and booster shots to those who have been vaccinated. Those family members who have been exposed or are vulnerable to catching the cough may also be given the vaccines.
Children who receive the booster should receive the immunity benefits within 14 days. For children who have not been vaccinated it could take longer.
The incubation period for whooping cough is roughly seven to 10 days. Health officials believe they've caught the outbreak in the early stages, making it more likely that the outbreak will be contained to that specific community.
Pertussis immunizations are available from local health units. You can also check with your family physician to see if they administer the shots, and many local pharmacies offer them alongside the flu vaccine. The cost is roughly $30, which many insurance plans choose to cover as part of preventive care.