GRANT COUNTY, Wash --- The Grant County Health District is investigating 12 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the Ephrata and Moses Lake communities, officials said Wednesday.

The GCHD has offered and started post-exposure prophylaxis to all the families and close contacts of the people with whooping cough. The Grant County Health Officer has recommended antibiotics for individuals who have come into close contact with the ill people. The GCHD wants people to know that antibiotics are not recommended to the general public.

High risk populations are children less than one year old, unimmunized children and adults, pregnant women that are less than seven months pregnant and immunocompromised individuals.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease found in humans and is spread through the air. People usually spread whooping cough by coughing, sneezing or spending a lot of time near one another where breathing space is shared, according to the GCHD press release.

Symptoms of whooping cough usually develop within five to ten days, but can be present up to three weeks following exposure, said the GCHD press release.

Early symptoms can last for one to two weeks and usually include a runny nose, low grade fever, mild occasional cough and apnea or a pause in breathing.

Whooping cough in its early stages appears to be the common cold, so it is often not suspected or diagnosed until more severe symptoms appear.

Late symptoms show up after the first one or two weeks and are traditionally a long series of coughs, rapid coughs followed by a high pitched “whoop,” vomiting during or after coughing fits, turning blue, difficulty catching breath during or after coughing fits and exhaustion after coughing fits.

The easiest way to avoid infection is to be vaccinated with pertussis vaccines, it reduces the chance that you will catch whooping cough. DTaP pertussis vaccine is only given to children under seven years old. Tdap vaccine can be given after seven years old if your child is not properly vaccinated. Tdap is also given to all children around 11 to 12 years old per routine vaccination schedule. All this is according to the Grant County Health District.

For more information you can go to the Washington State Department of Health website.