The Chelan Douglas Health District (CDHD) is warning of a pertussis outbreak that's circulating at a local school.

The agency says at least four children are known to have contracted the illness, which is commonly referred to as whooping cough, but did not say which school has reported the infections.

CDHD's Director of Communicable Diseases & Epidemiology, Peter Williams, says pertussis is a serious respiratory infection which typically presents with numerous symptoms.

"It often starts with cold-like symptoms and is often accompanied by a cough. The cough often progresses and becomes worse and could last for a long time - from a few weeks to even months in some cases."

Williams says pertussis is highly communicable and can spread easily from an infected person.

"It's spread through droplets of respiratory fluids that are released, particularly during coughing or sneezing. Those droplets can be spread if another person is coughed on directly or if those droplets fall to a surface and another person touches them and then touches their mouth or eyes."

Serious cases of whooping cough can lead to pneumonia, seizures, apnea (stopping breathing) and even death.

Those most at risk for complications are infants under the age of one, pregnant women, and individuals with existing respiratory diseases.

The most effective measure to prevent pertussis infection, transmission, and complications is routine vaccination.

Antibiotics are typically used to treat pertussis and decrease its transmission, as well as prevent the onset of illness after exposure.

CDHD also recommends practicing good respiratory hygiene to prevent the spread of whooping cough, including covering the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; properly disposing of used tissues immediately after use; and frequent hand washing.

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