- Associated Press - Thursday, May 4, 2017

LAFAYETTE, Ala. (AP) - Alabama health officials are investigating an outbreak of six laboratory-confirmed cases of pertussis at multiple schools in Chambers County, in the east-central portion of the state.

The Alabama Department of Public Health announced the probe Thursday but has not released the names of the schools involved.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. It begins with symptoms such as a runny nose, low-grade fever and cough. Symptoms progress to violent coughing, which often makes it hard to breathe.

The department’s Immunization Division is collecting specimens for testing, contacting parents of children who attend schools where the exposure has occurred and providing information for school text blasts.

Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers says the best way to protect against pertussis is by getting vaccinated.

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