Four cases of pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, have been confirmed in Portland, Maine at three different schools, according to our news partner WMTW. The schools with infected students are Longfellow Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School, and Deering High School. Because pertussis is very contagious, more cases are likely at these schools and possibly others. The Maine Center for Disease Control has been notified as per WMTW.

Not only is whooping cough highly contagious, it can also be very dangerous and life-threatening for infants and young children who haven’t been immunized, according to WebMD. The health and wellness website states that young children most likely catch pertussis from other family members, usually parents or siblings. It is typically and easily spread through sneezes and coughing. Often, the family member does not even know he or she has the illness.

WebMD reports that pertussis infects at least 600,000 people a year in the United States.

Other than vaccination and booster immunization with Tdap, there’s no effective way to prevent pertussis.

However, there are two common-sense precautions you can take: (1) Wash your hands often. (2) Cover your nose and mouth when you are coughing or sneezing. Experts recommend that you cough/sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.

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