Indiana facing highest whooping cough infections in 24 years

State health officials are reporting that the number of whooping cough cases in Indiana could be the highest they have seen in 24 years.

Indiana is only one of many states that are in the middle of a major increase in the number of reported whooping cough cases, according to Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that can cause uncontrollable and even violent coughing fits.

“Infants are the most vulnerable and they can die from the disease,” Dr. John Christenson of the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, told “But teenagers and adults serve as the vectors for the disease, transmitting it to infants who have no immunity.”

Doctors and health experts are attributing the rise in the number of cases, at least partially, to better diagnostic testing. They are also looking at the number of children who may not have been vaccinated as well as teenagers and young adults that have failed to receive booster shots.

Epidemiologist Angie Cierzniewski of the Indiana Department of Health told that he believes that health experts must fight a misperception that pertussis has been eradicated, or at least no longer a threat.

“People think it went away with polio and measles,” Cierzniewski told

Far from extinct, pertussis cases reported by the Indiana State Department of Health in 2010, as of September, have surpassed 390.

Indiana is not alone. Several other states are reporting higher than normal pertussis rates. California is in the middle of the worst pertussis outbreak it has seen since 1958, after which widespread vaccination programs accelerated. This year, over 4,000 cases have been reported in California and nine infants have succumbed to the disease.