An outbreak of whooping cough at Scarborough High School last month has health officials warning parents to take precautions.

Three high school students had confirmed cases of pertussis in October, but none of the cases appeared to be connected, Superintendent Julie Kukenberger said.

“We obviously want to be hyper-vigilant so families can be aware and take steps to protect their children,” she said.

Pamela Gill and Lisa Verzoni, both registered nurses, sent an email Friday morning to the Scarborough school community on behalf of the health services staff.

“Students attending the high school may have been exposed,” the nurses wrote. “It is important to inform the entire school community of the recent pertussis cases.”

Schools in neighboring York County reported a spike in the highly infectious disease in September, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. While cases reported statewide are down so far this year – 262 through September compared to 317 during the same period last year – 97 cases this year were in York County alone, and 25 of those cases were reported in September.

Pertussis produces a violent cough, especially in infants and toddlers, the CDC said. The highest risk of contracting pertussis is among household members and people who share confined spaces in close proximity for longer than an hour.

“Pertussis is an infection that affects the airways, and it can easily spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing,” the nurses wrote. “Pertussis can cause a severe cough that lasts for weeks or months, sometimes leading to coughing fits and/or vomiting. Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be very dangerous for babies and people with weakened immune systems.”

The nurses recommended keeping children home from school and other activities if they have a cough and may have been exposed to pertussis. Other recommendations included making an appointment with a health care provider as soon as possible and informing them if a child has been exposed to pertussis.

They also urged everyone to make sure their families’ vaccinations are up to date.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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