CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ga. — Cherokee County School District officials notified parents about students at two of its schools who were diagnosed with pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough.

The district told 11Alive they sent letters out Tuesday from the North Georgia Health District to all Free Home Elementary and Creekland Middle School parents, letting them know their child may have been exposed to it.

The two students with the illness are siblings, according to school officials.

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Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website said. It can spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing, or when spending a lot of time near one another where you share breathing space.

The CDC said the disease generally starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include runny nose, a low-grade fever and an occasional cough. 

After 1 to 2 weeks, and as the disease progresses, vomiting, exhaustion and rapid coughing that takes air out of your lungs can occur. 

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"We take the safety of our students, employees and all of their families very seriously," a school official said. "We work with the Georgia Department of Public Health to ensure accurate information is provided to parents as quickly as possible, whenever serious illnesses are diagnosed at their child’s school."

"If your child develops a cough illness - with or without whoop, vomiting, or shortness of breath - he/she needs to be seen and evaluated by a health care provider immediately," the letter said. "Please present this letter to your healthcare provider and inform him/her that your child was exposed to pertussis."

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The letters from the health district said they will continue to collaborate with the schools to investigate the situation. The letters also listed recommendations for parents to follow if their child is diagnosed with whooping cough, including keeping them out of school until they complete the appropriate course of antibiotics. 

Early treatment can help children get well faster and lower the chances of the spreading the disease to others. 

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