WASHINGTON -- Several Montgomery County School kids have come down with pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and county officials are worried the illness could spread to other students.
Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, health officer for Montgomery County, says they are aware of three confirmed cases and nine suspected cases of the respiratory disease at four county schools and a couple private schools.
Tillman says the students affected range in age from 9 to 18 years old.
"The problem is this is highly contagious, so that the coughing and the sneezing can spread to others," she said.
Symptoms of pertussis include a runny nose, sneezing, a low-grade fever and a cough that can get worse over time and lead to the tell-tale whooping sound as an infected person coughs.
Dana Tofig, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, says parents have been notified, "which is really the most important thing we can do, and make sure they understand what symptoms to look for."
All the students who have come down with the bacterial infection so far attended the same summer camp in Pennsylvania. At the camp, 200 students from Montgomery County were notified when leaving that they may have been exposed to the disease.
The schools where confirmed and suspected cases have emerged are Robert Frost Middle School and Julius West Middle School in Rockville, as well as Cabin John Middle School and Cold Spring Elementary in Potomac.
It takes about seven to 10 days for a student to show symptoms of the illness and Tillman says "every student who is symptomatic and not treated can spread that to up to 12 other people."
Antibiotics can be used to treat the illness and students who get it can expect to need around five days to recover.
There is a vaccination for pertussis that parents are encouraged to get for the children. Added, kids over 11 years old may need a booster shot, Tillman says.
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