- Associated Press - Monday, May 22, 2017

LaFAYETTE, Ala. (AP) - Health officials say they’ve confirmed additional cases of whopping cough in an east Alabama school system.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says laboratory tests have now found 18 cases of pertussis at multiple schools in Chambers County along the Georgia line. That’s up from a half-dozen cases earlier this month.

Health officials say they’re investigating what led to the outbreak of the highly contagious respiratory illness.

Whooping cough begins with symptoms including a runny nose, cough and a low-grade fever. In a couple of weeks it progresses to a violent cough that makes it difficult to breathe.

The agency says workers are contacting the parents of schoolchildren by phone and working with schools to get information to parents.

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