Update 5:30 p.m., April 15 - Officials diagnosed a third case of pertussis at Woodland Junior High School Monday, said Fayetteville Public Schools officials.

Officials diagnosed a Woodland Junior High School student with pertussis, or whooping cough, according to a letter sent to parents April 3 from the Arkansas Department of Health.

Woodland Junior High School officials will observe students for the next 14 days for whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that can cause a severe hacking cough. A school nurse will review student immunization records, and parents will be notified if their child needs a vaccine, according to the letter.

In 2017, there were 18,975 reported cases of pertussis in the U.S., a 5.6% increase from 2016. The majority of reported cases ended in  hospitalization were for children under six months old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During outbreaks of contagious diseases, officials can ask parents of unvaccinated children to take their children out of school, said Dr. Gary Wheeler a physician for the ADH. Outbreaks are usually seen in schools.

Pertussis can spread through direct contact with discharge from the nose or throat of an infected person, according to the ADH.

Symptoms of pertussis usually appear seven to 10 days after infection and resemble symptoms of the common cold but worsen over time and cause uncontrollable coughing, extreme fatigue and result in a red or blue face, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The most effective measure to prevent pertussis is to vaccinate adults and adolescents, according to the ADH.

The Mayo Clinic recommends parents to vaccinate their children for pertussis as well as diphtheria and tetanus beginning in infancy. The vaccine consists of a series of five injections at two months, four months, six months, 15-18 months and 4-6 years old, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The pertussis vaccine given in childhood eventually wears off when children are 11 years old, leaving most teenagers and adults at risk for infection. Children should have a booster at 11 years old and again every 10 years as adults. Pregnant women should have a pertussis vaccine shot between week 27 and 36 of their pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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