Parents, students and staff of Lehighton Area Middle School were recently notified that there has been a confirmed case of pertussis in the school.

A letter, signed by Principal Mark McGalla, notes that the person is being treated and is not in school.

He warned that anyone in close contact with children or adults diagnosed with pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, should be treated with antibiotics.

Marcia Resch, assistant director of emergency services at Blue Mountain Health System, Gnaden Huetten Campus, said no one has been treated for the illness in the emergency room.

"Not a single one," she said.

Pertussis is caused by a bacterium that lives in the mouth, nose and throat. The germ is highly contagious and can easily spread through the air from person to person.

Even if a child or adult has been vaccinated to prevent pertussis, immunity does not always last a lifetime.

The letter said that over the past few years, there has been a recurrence of the disease after the protective effects of the vaccine have diminished.

Symptoms of the disease include a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a cough that if untreated, gradually becomes severe and increases at night. Vomiting may occur.

Transmission of pertussis can be reduced by frequently washing your hands, especially after coughing or sneezing, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and proper disposal of tissues.

Anyone with symptoms should contact their physician, stay home from work or school and notify your school or employer.

Lehighton superintendent Jonathan J. Cleaver was in meetings and unavailable to comment by press time today.