AUBURN — School officials are advising parents to watch for signs of whooping cough in their kids after two students at Edward Little High School have been diagnosed with the illness.

Two students at Auburn Middle School are also being monitored, but that school does not have any confirmed cases.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious disease that causes violent coughing and can make it hard to breathe. The illness can be deadly for babies in particular, who may stop breathing and turn blue rather than cough, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Newborns are too young to be vaccinated against the disease.

According to a Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention report, Maine saw 410 cases in 2017, a 58 percent increase from the year before. Most of those cases were in school-age children, though 25 were in babies less than a year old.

As of November, the latest numbers available, Maine had seen 394 cases of whooping cough in 2018, putting last year on track to meet or exceed 2017’s cases.

Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin said her school system has had isolated cases in years past.

Auburn school officials notified parents district wide via robo-call Tuesday. The school system also posted a letter to parents on its website.

The letter advises parents to contact their doctor if their child develops a severe cough, has a weakened immune system or lives with someone at high risk, such as a pregnant woman or baby younger than a year old. It also recommends that parents make sure their children’s vaccinations are up to date.

Whooping cough is spread through coughing, sneezing or sharing breathing space, according to the federal CDC. People can stay contagious for up to two weeks after developing the cough.

Symptoms generally develop five to 10 days after exposure, but they can take up to three weeks to appear.

Whopping cough typically starts with cold-like symptoms. Coughing tends to develop after a week or two, with fits of coughing so violent that the person might vomit. The cough can last for weeks.

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