Six students at Tacoma's Washington-Hoyt Elementary School have been diagnosed with whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that can cause serious illness.

Six students at Tacoma’s Washington-Hoyt Elementary School have been diagnosed with whooping cough, a highly contagious disease that can cause serious illness.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is investigating possible cases in other schools, according to a department news release.

Parents who believe their children may have caught the disease are urged to contact their health-care provider immediately.

Symptoms of whooping cough, or pertussis, include coughs that last more than two weeks and severe coughing that causes shortness of breath or vomiting. Pertussis often starts with cold-like symptoms.

    Most Read Stories

The department also urged parents to vaccinate their children to prevent the further spread of whooping cough.

The disease is largely preventable with the vaccine. Children who are vaccinated can still get the disease but likely won’t suffer any serious illness.

According to the department, pertussis is most severe for infants younger than 1 year old, who often catch the disease from family members. More than one-third of infants with pertussis are hospitalized; one in 20 get pneumonia and one in 100 have convulsions. Though it is rare, pertussis can be deadly.