This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 2, 2014.
As many as a dozen students at four Montgomery County schools have been confirmed or are suspected to have pertussis, also known as whooping cough, county officials said.
The students are enrolled at Julius West, Cabin John and Robert Frost middle schools and Cold Spring Elementary School, said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools.
“It is believed that all of the cases are related to students who attended the same summer camp where they were exposed to pertussis,” Tofig said in an email Friday.
Dr. Ulder J. Tillman, the county’s health officer, said Friday that three cases had been confirmed. Another nine students are suspected to have the disease, she said.
“They’ve been exposed to a case and they have the symptoms of the characteristic cough,” Tillman said.
Mary Anderson, a Montgomery County Health and Human Services spokeswoman, said Friday that it is “quite possible” more cases will show up.
“Pertussis is highly contagious,” she said. “It spreads from coughing, and I think kids are not always the best when it comes to covering their cough.”
On Tuesday, Anderson said she did not know of any new cases.
Letters have already been sent or will be sent home to families with children at the four schools, Tofig said Friday.
Anderson said that about 200 children from Montgomery County attended the summer camp. The camp sent a letter earlier this month notifying campers that someone at the camp had tested positive for the disease, she said.
If diagnosed with whooping cough, a student needs to be treated with antibiotics for five days before they can return to school, she said. Pertussis can potentially turn into pneumonia.
Parents should look for cold-like symptoms and a persistent cough that “almost sounds like a bark,” she said.
With new state immunization requirements in place, this school year marks the first that students entering seventh grade had to receive a Tdap vaccination — the name referring to tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. They also had to receive a meningococcal vaccination.
Tillman said the notifications sent home to parents explain the symptoms and inform them to take their child to a doctor if they notice the symptoms.
“We need the help of our parents as well in terms of monitoring this,” she said.