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Several cases of whooping cough confirmed at Minnesota schools

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Several cases of whooping cough have been reported at a couple of Minnesota schools in recent weeks.

The Duluth News Tribune reports cases of the highly-contagious illness, also known as pertussis, have been confirmed this week at Duluth Edison's North Star Academy, affecting students in grades 6-8.

Linda Van Etta, infectious disease specialist at St. Luke's Hospital, told the newspaper the state is seeing a "comeback" of the disease, saying that children in junior high and adults should consider getting a booster vaccination.

This is because the one given at six months old loses its effectiveness over time, which could be a reason for the current outbreak.

Students in the Rochester area have been affected too, with ABC 6 reporting several cases have been confirmed at Lourdes High School in the past few weeks, with those infected told to limit their contact with others.

The Olmsted County Health Department told the TV station that pertussis is a disease that tends to "rear its ugly head every 2-3 years" in Minnesota.

Minnesota health statistics show there have been fewer cases this year than last year. As of Dec. 2 there were 579 confirmed in the state so far this year, compared to 949 in 2014.

The Mayo Clinic says pertussis is marked by a "severe hacking cough" followed by a "high-pitched intake of breath" which is what gives it the "whooping name."

Previously a childhood disease, it now mainly occurs in teenagers and adults who immunizations have faded. Symptoms start mild, with nasal congestion, fever and a regular cough, before worsening as thick mucus accumulates in airways, causing vomiting, extreme fatigue and the hacking cough.

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