COLDWATER, Mich. (WWJ/AP) – A health official says cases of whooping cough are spreading among Amish residents in southwestern Michigan.

Val Newton, prevention services director for the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency, told the agency’s board Thursday that whooping cough, or pertussis, has struck up to 30 members of St. Joseph County’s Amish community.

The Daily Reporter of Coldwater reports that there is concern that the highly contagious bacterial infection could spread to Branch and Hillsdale counties.

Pertussis can be prevented with vaccines and treated with antibiotics. Newton says the first area family affected by whooping cough declined treatment. Doctors in the three counties are being contacted to suggest testing patients —  especially young children.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services early this year issued a health advisory following an increase in the number of identified cases whooping cough across the state.

Whooping cough usually starts with cold-like symptoms and sometimes a mild cough or fever that can last for months. After one to two weeks, severe coughing can begin. It can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and people are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. In infants, the cough can be minimal or not even there.

Other symptoms include:
• Runny nose
• Nasal congestion
• Sneezing
• Red, watery eyes
• Mild fever
• Dry cough

People infected with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others who then breathe in the bacteria. Health officials say it is most contagious during the first two weeks of illness.

Most local doctor’s offices carry the pertussis vaccine, which is highly recommended.

© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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