(SEYMOUR) - Local health officials have confirmed cases of pertussis or whooping cough in school-aged children in Seymour.
Health officials say students who are up to date on their vaccines should be protected from the disease.
"We start immunizing for pertussis at 2 months old, so if they have all their vaccines, they should be OK," says nurse Shara Calhoun with the Jackson County Health Department.
No vaccine is 100 percent effective, however, and protection decreases over time, she added.
Although whooping cough is most associated with children, anyone can contract it, Calhoun said.
Adults who had it when they were young are not immune to it now, she added.
That's why it's strongly recommended that older teenagers and adults receive the Tdap pertussis booster vaccine.
Outbreaks of whooping cough are rare, but Calhoun said it's not unusual to see one or two cases a year.
"We haven't seen a lot of it," she said. "It's not really a surprise, but we don't want an outbreak. This is a good reason to keep children vaccinated."
Seymour Community Schools sent home letters this week informing parents of the situation.
The students who tested positive for the disease attend two different schools in the district but live in the same household, Calhoun said.
Symptoms of whooping cough start out similar to a common cold, including a low-grade fever.
After a week or two, a cough develops and becomes worse. Coughing spells can make it hard for the patient to catch their breath and children often exhibit a whooping sound when they cough.
The health department advises any parent who thinks their child might be sick to take them to the doctor and not send them to school, as the illness is easily spread.
"It's contracted through coughing and spread by contact with nose or throat droplets of an infected person," Calhoun said.
Pertussis is also easily treated with a five-day course of antibiotics, she added.
Whooping cough may not be considered lethal in most cases, but it can be dangerous, especially to babies, the elderly and anyone with weakened immune systems.
"It's very hard on a newborn's respiratory system because of the coughing," Calhoun said.
Pregnant women and their spouses also are encouraged to get the vaccine, she added
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