It comes with a persistent cough, often sounding like the "whoop" that gives it its name.
"Whooping cough," or pertussis, is rare and sometimes fatal--and it's discovery in the Holt High School family has the health department and the district on alert.
A test confirms a high school senior has the disease.
"What we are trying to do is establish is there any spread. Has spread occured in school?," explains Ingham County Health Department director Dr. Dean Sienko.
Pertussis is not dangerous in school-age kids or adults with normal immune systems but spread throughout the community could be. Infants who aren't vaccinated against it have died from it. It is also dangerous for anyone with a compromised immune system.
Within hours of the notification, Sienko's team was at Holt High helping school nurses were pouring over absentee records. The administration drafted a letter set for delivery Friday.
You may recall mass vaccinations for pertussis at East Lansing High School in 2006. Sienko says they won't be necessary unless more cases are found at Holt.
"It is possible this is an isolated case," he says, "but we know that school populations...they do a lot of things together. They oftentimes are risky ventures for diseases like this."
The CDC recommends teen get a booster shot for pertussis if they haven't already had one.