EUGENE, Ore. -- The Whooping Cough cases at Sheldon High School are now being called an outbreak. So far, 12 students have been diagnosed.
Eugene 4J students sent a letter to parents last week notifying them of the outbreak. Officials said they are trying to stop the spread. 4J spokesperson Kerry Delf said there were about three dozen students who had not been vaccinated. As of Friday, they have been excluded from school until they get the vaccination, provide documentation proving they received the vaccine or have been treated for the disease if they have been diagnosed with it.
Delf said even though vaccines are required to attend school, there are some exemptions.
Whooping Cough, also known as Pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It is caused by bacteria found in the mouth, nose, and throat and it is spread through direct contact.
Officials said it can spread like wildfire. For every one case of Whooping Cough, it can cause 15 new cases. The school is working with Lane County Public Health to reduce the spread.
"Another important step to take is if you have the symptoms of Pertussis including a persistent cough of more than a week, the school is asking that you please talk to the school nurse or visit a school-based health center or your own health care provider to be diagnosed," Delf said. "If it is Pertussis you can be treated and help keep the spread down."
Officials said you can take preventative measures to avoid getting sick. Lane County Public Health Officer Patrick Luedtke said it is important to get vaccinated if you haven't already. He said it could spread if more people don't get the vaccine.
"So we have a less than desireable vaccination rate and we now know the bacteria is in our community," Luedtke said.
The concern is that it could spread to families. Luedtke said it can be fatal for infants or young children.
He said some simple things people can do to stay safe is to wash hands regularly, clean surfaces and cover your mouth when you cough.