A Righetti High School student has been diagnosed with whooping cough, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District officials said Wednesday.

The student, whose name and grade were not released, is not attending school at the present time, according to officials.

The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District was contacted by Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials late Tuesday.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that frequently includes a cough which lasts two weeks or more and becomes severe and persistent, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

The cough is often accompanied by a whooping sound, especially in children. In some individuals, the cough may be minimal, but still is persistent.

A vaccine exists and is first given at 2 months of age, offering protection after four doses. 

Young children, especially those under age 1, are most at risk, leading public health officials to urged caregivers and parents of young children to get the vaccine.

District officials notified students, parents and staff about the illness.

“SMJUHSD officials are urging anyone experiencing whooping cough symptoms to immediately seek medical care from their physician,” the district said in a written statement.

The Righetti High School student’s diagnosis comes as California Department of Public Health officials have announced that the state is in the middle of “pertussis epidemic.”

So far this year, 441 cases with onset in 2015 have been reported to CDPH. One death occurred, involving a child less than 3 weeks old at the onset of whooping cough, according to a CDPH report.

Whooping cough is cyclical with peaks every three to five years, state officials said, noting the last epidemic in the state occurred in 2010.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.