Statesville High School has notified parents that a student at the school has been diagnosed with pertussis, also know as whooping cough.

According to a letter sent to all parents by Principal Sheila Jenkins on Friday, the Iredell County Health Department is working with the school to identify students who may have been exposed to this student.

Students who have been identified as having close contact to this student will be notified, Jenkins wrote.

Pertussis is an infection that affects the airways and is easily spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. Hundreds of cases are reported each year in North Carolina.

It causes a severe cough that can last for weeks or months, sometimes leading to coughing fits or vomiting. Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems. Family members with pertussis can spread it to newborns. Additional information about pertussis can be found on the CDC website.

The best protection against pertussis is vaccination. Protection against pertussis from the childhood vaccine, DTaP, decreases over time. Older children and adults, including pregnant women, should get a pertussis booster shot called “Tdap” to protect themselves and infants near or around them.

If you need the Tdap vaccine, contact your doctor or call the Iredell County Health Department to find a vaccine provider near you.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to call the Iredell County Health Department at (704) 878-5300 or School Nurse Kelly Feimster at (704) 873-4391, Ext. 1303.