AUGUSTA (AP) – The Maine Center for Disease Control said Thursday it is seeking to control a whooping cough cluster thought to number close to a dozen in Portland and its northern suburbs.

Another 80 close contacts are being notified that they may need preventive antibiotics, officials said.

Four schools, a day care provider and two sports teams are involved with the cluster of Pertussis, a respiratory infection caused by bacteria that can cause a persistent, severe cough, especially in infants, according to the state office.

“We have been in close contact with the school nurses, day care provider and team coaches to make sure that all affected parents and children are appropriately notified,” Dr. Dora Anne Mills, the director of the Maine CDC, said in a statement.

“We are sending notices home to parents of these schools, sports teams and day cares to provide those parents with guidance and to answer their questions.”

According to the CDC, state officials were notified earlier this week that an infant was hospitalized in Portland with Pertussis. A subsequent epidemiological investigation identified 10 others who had symptoms and needed treatment, most of whom were children, some unvaccinated, officials said.

Several dozen people are being tested and the CDC’s immunization program is seeking to ensure adequate vaccine supplies are available in the Greater Portland area, officials said.

“This cluster is a reminder for all parents to make sure our children’s vaccines are updated,” Mills said. “By a child’s second birthday, they should have received four vaccines protecting against Pertussis, a booster between ages 4-6 and another booster after age 11.”

The CDC said Pertussis can start out much like a common cold, but can progress to a persistent cough that is characterized by bursts of numerous rapid coughs followed by an inhalation. Infants are at highest risk for severe infection.

AP-ES-09-06-07 1814EDT

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