Officials confirmed 10 Maine students have whooping cough

December 20, 2019 GMT

FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — Health officials have confirmed that 10 students in a Maine high school have whooping cough.

There were initially three reported cases pertussis at Freeport High School, then five, and now 10, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Superintendent of Schools Becky Foley notified Regional School Unit 5 of the situation Thursday in an email.

There are no cases at any other school in the region and the holiday break will serve as an opportunity to prevent further spread of the illness, according to Foley’s email.

Foley also urged parents to ensure that their families vaccinations are up to date before school resumes session Jan. 2.

Co-Chair of Maine Families for Vaccines, Dr. Laura Blaisdell says that the cases at Freeport are not uncommon.

“This is what pediatricians see with pertussis. Schools are a perfect place for a very contagious disease like pertussis to spread. Kids are in close quarters sharing breathing space,” Blaisdell wrote in a text message. “So our kids are getting sick from this once preventable disease.”

The state now has a rate eight times higher than the national average and that the state’s low vaccination rate is increasing weaknesses to the vaccine, the publication reports. It also has one of the highest vaccination opt-out rates in the country.