SKOWHEGAN — Two more cases of whooping cough have been confirmed among children in Skowhegan area schools and a possible new case is being investigated in another part of Somerset County, the state epidemiologist said Tuesday.

Dr. Stephen Sears said the number of confirmed cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, has grown to 15 in the area since January.

Sears said cases that have been charted in the Skowhegan area, many earlier this month, involve children 7-14, with two cases at the high school and one in Norridgewock.

“There were two new cases late Friday and we haven’t had any confirmed new cases since then,” Sears said. He said there’s one more possible in Somerset County, but not in Skowhegan, that’s being evaluated. Sears would not identify the community since it is not a confirmed case.

Whooping cough is a contagious respiratory disease that can cause long, violent coughing fits and the characteristic whooping sound that follows when a person gasps for air.

Letters alerting families to the presence of whooping cough were sent home with Skowhegan high school students May 10. Parents were urged to check to see if their children’s vaccines are up to date and to seek medical care if coughing and sneezing persist.

“We still may see some new cases just given the length of time it takes for someone who has been exposed to develop symptoms — 10 to 14 days,” Sears said. “Sometimes people are sick for a few days before they go in to see a physician, so until we are three to four weeks out, we still may see a few cases.”

Sears said there have been other cases elsewhere in Maine and that when children visit family or attend sporting events in other towns, the disease can spread quickly.

“I would be hesitant to say that we’re not going to see any more cases; I suspect we may see a few,” he said. “But clearly it’s not as frequent as we were seeing at the beginning part of May.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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