Health Department officials are warning residents about an increase in the number of Pertussis cases here in the Hudson Valley.

The Sullivan County Public Health Department has confirmed 10 cases of whooping cough and another probable case. County officials say that the patients and their close contacts are all being treated. Health care providers in the county are working with officials to identify more cases to make sure those affected are treated and that the outbreak remains under control.

In February other cases of whooping cough were discovered at Liberty High School in Sullivan County, Roy C. Ketcham High School  in Wappingers Falls and Goshen Central School District in Orange County.

The highly contagious disease usually begins with the same symptoms of the common cold, along with a cough, which can become much worse after 7-14 days. Pertussis patients usually suffer from coughing fits that include a “whooping” noise.

Whooping cough is most dangerous for babies and young children. Those who are infected could risk spreading it to family members. Babies younger than 1 year old who have pertussis may need to be hospitalized due to risk of pneumonia, seizures and brain damage.

Whooping cough can even be deadly. The CDC has reported over 277 deaths from whooping cough since 2000. Almost all of the deaths were babies younger than 3 months of age, who are too young to be protected against whooping cough by getting the shots.

There is a vaccine for pertussis, so those who have not been protected are at most risk of contracting and spreading the disease. However, when whooping cough spreads throughout school districts students who have been inoculated can still get it.

The Center for Disease Control says the best way to protect  yourself from whooping cough is to receive the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis shot (DTaP). Doctors recommend that all children who are old enough should get the vaccine.