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Whooping cough suspected at local elementary school

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Dacula Elementary School student has a suspected case of whooping cough and the school's principal has asked parents to be on the lookout for the disease.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious disease that is marked by severe coughing spells. It is spread through bacteria in droplets when an infected person coughs.

Sloan Roach, spokeswoman for the Gwinnett County Public Schools, said Dacula Elementary Principal Karen Bryant sent a letter to parents Friday advising them of the suspected case and asking them to look for symptoms in their own children.

"We thought it was important to go ahead and let parents know," Roach said.

The letter tells parents to keep an eye out for cold symptoms and a cough that worsens over a one- to two-week period and says that people who are infected my have long series of coughs or coughing fits, vomiting or difficulty breathing.

The school system is working with the county health department, Roach said. Parents are urged to monitor their children for the next three weeks and contact their doctor or the health department if a child has symptoms.

A booster for pertussis is available for people between the ages of 11 and 61. Roach said people who have been vaccinated against whooping cough can still get the disease, though usually in a milder form. Babies younger than six months old are at the greatest risk for contracting it, the letter said.