Southeast Utah Health Department officials are reporting an outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, in Moab.

Children who are not immunized are not permitted to attend school for 21 days from the date they are exposed to the disease, according to Southeast Utah Health Department Public Information Officer Becky Colombo.

People with pertussis usually spread the disease to another person by coughing or sneezing, or when they spend significant time near one another in a shared breathing space. Many babies who get pertussis are infected by older siblings, parents or caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.

The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough or fever. It is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more severe symptoms appear.

After one to two weeks, the traditional symptoms of pertussis may appear and include fits of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop.”

Health officials say that one of the best protections is hand washing; people should not touch their eyes or noses with unwashed hands.

Pertussis is generally treated with antibiotics, and officials say that early treatment is important. Treatment may make an infection less serious if it begins early, before coughing fits start.