HAILEY, Idaho (KLIX) – Several students in the Blaine County School District have been diagnosed with Pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, according to public health officials.

“We take this very seriously,” Heather Crocker, director of communications for the school district, told News Radio 1310 on Friday morning, the same day the school district was notified of the outbreak. She said the district is notifying parents, staff and community members.

She said two school nurses are monitoring students in the district's eight schools, and custodians are trying to mitigate the germs by cleaning surface areas.

Health officials say whooping cough is a serious disease, especially for young children and infants.

“It’s important to watch for symptoms so you can get medicine right away and protect the rest of your family from the bacteria,” Tanis Maxwell, epidemiologist for South Central Public Health District, said in a prepared statement on Friday.

Early signs of pertussis include a persistent cough that follows a cold, according to the health district. The cough usually comes in explosive bursts ending with a high-pitched whoop as the person catches their breath. It also can cause vomiting. Coughing fits can last four to six weeks, and people with symptoms are contagious for three weeks if untreated and for five days after treatment has begun.

View the list of symptoms and other information about the disease, including SCPHD offces that offer immunizations against whooping cough.

Crocker said she did not know how many students were ill in the school district, but said there doesn’t seem to be an increase to the normal number of absences.

“Children with symptoms should not attend school until they’ve been seen by a physician,” she said. “We certainly want students to take care of themselves.”