SOUDERTON At least five students at Souderton Area High School have been diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough, prompting Montgomery County health officials to warn of an outbreak, the school district said in a statement this week.

Of the five cases, three have been confirmed, Superintendent Frank T. Gallagher said Wednesday. "Everyone's doing well," he said.

Pertussis can be deadly for infants and young children, those who aren't vaccinated, and those with compromised immune systems, according to the county Health Department.

For most, whooping cough symptoms are cold-like, accompanied by strong coughing. It can be treated with antibiotics, and many patients can return to school or work within a week, the department said.

The Health Department recommended that people in the school district keep an eye out for such symptoms over the next two weeks and make sure the families are up-to-date on the so-called Tdap vaccine, commonly given in a single shot, which also helps protect against tetanus and diphtheria.

For infants, the vaccine typically is administered when the child is 2 months old, followed by booster shots at several intervals. Anyone over 7 who has not yet been vaccinated should receive the Tdap vaccine "at the earliest opportunity," the district statement said.

For more information on pertussis, contact your physician or the county Health Department, at 610-278-5117 or montcopa.org/index.aspx?NID=580. - Jessica Parks