DEXTER, Maine — Ridge View Community School confirmed its fifth and sixth cases of whooping cough on Friday, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“We’re well aware of it and we’re working with the school and local doctors,” said the state epidemiologist, Dr. Stephen Sears.
Principal Mike Tracy said the first case was confirmed about a month ago. He said about 10 students left school early on Friday to see their doctors about whooping cough.
“We’re still in the minor range,” said Tracy. “It’s not in any way a cause for alarm.”
Tracy said the affected students range from kindergartners to eighth-graders. He said he’s not aware of any cases in the high school.
Ridge View Community School has a little more than 700 students, said Tracy.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a “highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing,” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine website.
“Fortunately, many children are vaccinated against it,” said Sears. “Once somebody is diagnosed with it, they’re put on an antibiotic and everyone around them is given an antibiotic.”
Three of the six students who had confirmed cases of whooping cough were inoculated for the disease, said Tracy.
Tracy said he has been keeping in contact with parents about the problem.
The best way to deal with it is to “try to diagnose it early and treat it early,” said Sears. “It’s a really bad cough and it can make [those affected] cough for a long period of time. In a young child, it can be very serious.”
Sears said cases of whooping cough have become common in Maine.
“We’ve been seeing increasing cases in Penobscot County for a while — a lot in Bangor and Brewer,” said Sears.
Sears said local doctors and hospitals are aware of the problem.
Parents should be aware of the symptoms of whooping cough in order to treat it early.
“If your child has a runny nose, a low-grade fever [and is] coughing profusely, particularly at night, get your child checked by your family physician,” said Tracy.