Another New Jersey community has been dealing with pertussis, or whooping cough.

School officials in Morris County this week said there was one confirmed case and one suspected case identified at Chatham Middle School.

This follows two cases of the illness confirmed in Summit in January.

Initial symptoms of pertussis are similar to the common cold and include sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and fever. Left unchecked, it becomes much worse. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.

The disease gets its nickname from the high-pitched "whoop" often made by patients trying to take a breath amid violent coughing.

Pertussis is of most concern among families with newborns who are not yet able to receive the vaccination against it, according to Westfield Regional Health Department Director Megan Avallone. She said those younger than two months old have no immunity to the disease, and so it can be life-threatening to babies.

Older children and adults who become ill with pertussis will recover with treatment, Avallone said.

Pertussis is described as a "highly contagious" respiratory disease, on the state Department of Health website.

Avallone did offer a bit of reassurance, as she said high vaccination rates among school-aged children and adults with young children help protect not only the individuals who receive their shots, but also those around them.

She said that while pertussis is contagious as an air-borne illness, one or two cases at a school is not considered an outbreak and is not unusual.

There were 465 cases of pertussis statewide in 2017, according to the New Jersey Communicable Disease Report for that year.

Avallone said the biggest takeaway is that it's never too late to be vaccinated for pertussis.

She said staying home when sick and frequent hand-washing still are the most effective ways of avoiding getting sick.

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