HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ Reno County health officials have been taking steps to help stall the spread of a whooping cough outbreak before school starts.

The county has more than 70 suspected cases, The Hutchinson News reported ( As of Friday, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Reno County has 41 confirmed or probable cases of pertussis, accounting for 20 percent of all cases in the state. That was up from 18 on June 29.

The state figures also show new cases in Kingman, Harvey, McPherson and Sedgwick counties, which are adjacent to Reno County.

Reno County Health Department Director Nick Baldetti said the continued outbreak has health officials concerned about the possibility of a potential “micro-outbreak” once school starts again.

The Reno County Health Department has been working with area school districts to prepare and hopes to have vaccination clinics set up for Buhler, Haven and Nickerson districts. They are focusing on families with school age children, school staff who work with children and daycare providers.

“There’s serious concern for a potential exponential spread through our schools,” Baldetti said. “When they get back to school it will be concentrated so we want to focus on that group.”

Whooping cough is a contagious respiratory disease that starts slowly and becomes more severe and eventually can cause bouts of rapid, violent coughing followed by the “whooping” sound that gives the illness its common name. Whooping cough can cause life-threatening complications, especially in infants and young children.

“We’re not isolating our effort to elementary, middle or high school, but all levels of education, daycare providers, churches and businesses,” Baldetti said. “This is truly a widespread outbreak. And it is truly on us, as a community, to ensure we are protecting those in our community that cannot protect themselves.”