SOUDERTON, Pa. (WPVI) -- In Montgomery County, parents and school officials are on the watch for pertussis, better known as whooping cough.
2 Souderton High School freshmen have come down with the highly contagious bacterial infection.
And the health department has put the school on 'outbreak status,' recommending that any student with a cough not come to school till they've been examined and tested for pertussis.
Whooping cough can be spread through coughing and sneezing.
Older children and adults may not get severely sick, but younger kids can.
That's why it is important to be vaccinated, and if infected, stay away from young children.
Everyone in & around the school is being urged to look for symptoms, such as runny nose and sudden, uncontrollable coughing spells.
But, Dr. Kristen Kucharczuk of Advocare Main Line Pediatrics says pertussis can be tricky to identify.
For many, whooping cough starts like a common cold with a cough.
But after two weeks, the cough gets worse, especially in younger children.
"It's the coughing fits with the gasp for air in the middle that gives you the name whooping cough," says Dr. Kucharczuk.
She says older kids and adults may not have that classic sign, and may not get severely sick.
But if it's spread to an infant, that's when you get into trouble.
"Ones that are really little are the ones who can get super sick and even die from pertussis," she says.
That's why getting the vaccine is vital.
Parents of students at the school are also asked to check their vaccine records, to make sure everyone is up-to-date.
Shots are given at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months.
Then a booster at 15 to 18 months, *and 4-6 years old.
And because the vaccine wears off, another booster should be given to adolescents, pregnant women and all other adults.
"Especially if you are around children, see if you got a booster, if not, get it as soon as possible," says Dr. Kucharczuk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28,660 cases of pertussis were reported during 2014, however, the number is expected to increase as case counts are reconciled.
The number is nearly 20% higher than those reported in 2013.
Sizeable increases were again reported in adolescents 13 through 16 years of age.
More information: http://sahs.soudertonsd.org/announcements/03-2015pertussis.cfm
Whooping cough outbreak reported at Souderton Area High School