Health care officials in Duplin County are trying to contain an outbreak of whooping cough.
So far this year, the county leads the state with the number of confirmed cases at 35. Duplin County has another 14 probable cases and two more suspected cases, according to county health officials.
Health Director Ila Davis says it is a community outbreak, meaning it's not contained to one school or business, or to one area. Davis says almost every school in the county has been notified about cases involving their children.
Whooping cough, which is also called pertussis, is a very serious disease, especially for young children and infants less than one year old. The disease is highly contagious and can be easily spread through talking, sneezing or coughing.
Symptoms start out with a runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and a cough that slowly gets worse. The next stage has uncontrolled coughing spells or fits, especially at night, and a high-pitched "whoop" sound when the person inhales.
Letters have gone out to anyone who may have been in contact with someone who has had a confirmed case.
The state says Lenoir, Craven and Pitt counties have had at least two case each of whooping cough this year.