One of the Hudson Valley's largest school districts has announced a confirmed case of pertussis, or whooping cough.

Wappingers Central School District confirmed the case of pertussis at Roy C. Ketcham High School on Tuesday. In a press release, the school district warns parents and students about how they may contract the disease and what steps they should take to protect themselves.

The highly contagious disease usually begins with the same symptoms of the common cold, along with a cough, which can become much worse after 7-14 days. Pertussis patients usually suffer from coughing fits that include a "whooping" noise.

Whooping cough is most dangerous for babies and young children. Students could risk spreading it to family members if they're exposed. Babies younger than 1 year old who have pertussis may need to be hospitalized due to risk of pneumonia, seizures and brain damage.

Whooping cough can even be deadly. The CDC has reported over 277 deaths from whooping cough since 2000. Almost all of the deaths were babies younger than 3 months of age, who are too young to be protected against whooping cough by getting the shots.

There is a vaccine for pertussis, so those who have not been protected are at most risk of contracting and spreading the disease. However, when whooping cough spreads throughout school districts students who have been inoculated can still get it.

The Center for Disease Control says the best way to protect  yourself from whooping cough is to receive the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shot (DTaP). Doctors recommend that all children who are old enough should get the vaccine.

Over the past few weeks, other cases of whooping cough were discovered at Liberty High School in Sullivan County and Goshen Central School District in Orange County.

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