Fifteen confirmed cases of whooping cough, and seven suspected cases have been found in Jefferson County in recent months, according to a news release from the Jefferson County Health Department.

Health officials said the cases have been tracked since May 1, and they expect many other people might have been exposed.

“At most, we had 37 contacts who were followed after contact, with one confirmed case. Another case had 14 contacts,” said Gail Scott, director of the health department. “Usually, there are at least three-to-five contacts who need notification and possible treatment or isolation. It is never just the one confirmed patient who is affected by this illness,”

Health officials said vaccination is the best defense against whooping cough. Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease affecting the respiratory tract and is spread by coughing and often through repeated face-to-face contact.

Anyone with symptoms is asked to contact their healthcare provider about antibiotic treatment that can shorten the time when they are contagious. Anyone with pertussis should be isolated from school, work or other activities until completing at least the first five days of the recommended antibiotic therapy.