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11 cases of whooping cough confirmed in Forsyth County

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. --Officials say 11 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed Forsyth County since last Monday, according to Marlon Hunter, Forsyth County Health Director.

6 of the 11 cases are students within the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. The other 5 are either infants or older adults, says Hunter.

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools spokesman Theo Helm says the cases were confirmed in students at Sedge Garden Elementary, Flat Rock Middle, Kernersville Middle and Reagan High School.

At Sedge Garden, students in the class of the infected student received letters requiring them to take a preventative antibiotic in the next few days. In the middle and high schools, students sitting next to or in front of the infected student also received the letter.

Students who have been exposed must show proof they've gotten preventative antibiotics in the next few days, or the will not be allowed to return to school until they do.

"As soon as we make contact with you get your child or loved one to their primary care physician and follow the instructions on the letter we send right away. Those germs spread very fast,"  said Health Director Marlon Hunter

Pertussis is a bacterial disease that impacts the respiratory system. It can cause violent coughing and sneezing and is most dangerous to infants, older adults or those with compromised immune systems.

“It causes the kids to have an infection in the upper airway and lungs which causes the cough,” said Pediatrician Jim Anderson with Cornerstone Pediatrics.

Anderson says cases of the bacterial disease are showing up because people are failing to get vaccinated or haven’t gotten a booster shot.

"It’s a big push for pediatrics just to get the kids in but it’s all very important that adults see their primary care doctor as well.”

North Carolina law requires children to get immunized prior to starting school and a booster before starting 6th grade.

In August of 2012, a Forsyth County 2-year-old died from Pertussis.