Health officials are reminding parents that vaccinations help prevent the spread of contagious diseases after a whooping cough outbreak at Calgary Waldorf School.

There have been 19 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, in the Calgary health zone in 2016, and eight of those cases are linked to the southwest school.

Last year, 59 cases of pertussis were confirmed in the Calgary health zone, up from 33 in 2014.

Whooping cough is the result of a bacterial infection and its main symptom is a severe cough that can last for weeks.

The infection can also lead to pneumonia, convulsions, brain damage and, in some cases, death.

Calgary Waldorf School

Eight cases of Calgary's 19 cases of whooping cough so far in 2016 have been linked to Calgary Waldorf School, in the southwest community of Cougar Ridge. (Google Maps)

The cases at Waldorf School are not considered a risk to the general public.

In a release, however, Alberta Health Services (AHS) warned that "this outbreak does serve as a reminder of the importance of immunization, particularly to protect children and other at-risk individuals."

Vaccinations are free and recommended

Alberta offers pertussis immunizations for free through the province's routine childhood immunization program.

Health officials recommend a series of doses, starting at two months of age, and again at four, six and 18 months, then one more between age four and six, and again in Grade 9.

Adults who have not received a dose of pertussis vaccine since turning 18 are also eligible for a single dose for free.

Health officials plan to offer additional immunization to students at the school to reduce chance of the outbreak spreading even further.

"Pertussis can be treated most successfully if caught early; however, immunization can safely prevent disease and, even if it does occur, reduce symptoms and spread of the disease," AHS stated in the release.

More information is available at www.immunizealberta.ca or by calling 811.