Whooping cough outbreak on Long Island

Health officials on eastern Long Island have reported an outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, which causes an uncontrollable, violent cough that can last for several weeks or months.

The contagious bacterial infection has been confirmed in thirteen students in three schools in Smithtown, N.Y. Suffolk County health officials have alerted area pediatricians and have given advice to school officials on how to control the outbreak, the Associated Press reports.

The severity of the illness was reduced because all of the Smithtown students were immunized, according to health officials, according to the AP.

Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. The disease is one of the most commonly occurring ones among vaccine-preventable disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease begins like a common cold with congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, a mild cough and fever. After one to two weeks, severe coughing fits occur that can continue for weeks. The violent and rapid coughing occurs over and over until the air is gone from the lungs and the infected individual must inhale with a loud "whooping" sound. Infants may have a minimal or non-existent cough but may have "apnea," a pause in the child's breathing pattern. Pertussis can be deadly in rare cases, especially in infants.