Virginia sees 72 percent increase in whooping cough cases

The Virginia health department has reported a 72 percent increase in reported cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

The sudden spike in the disease can be pinpointed to a county located southwest of Roanoke, where roughly 30 cases have been reported. The rapid increase in cases has even caused a private school to temporarily shut down, reports.

Pertussis is usually an airborne disease that is spread by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others who, as a result, inhale the bacteria.

Symptoms start off similar to the common cold but then increases over time, culminating in a severe cough. When contracted by infants, whooping cough can cause "apnea," a symptom that pauses the child’s breathing pattern.  

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease, but is effectively prevented with vaccinations. The protection of the vaccination, however, fades over time, meaning that adults need to be re-vaccinated, even if they were completely vaccinated as children, according to the CDC.

With infants, pregnant mothers and seniors the most susceptible to the disease, the Virginia health department has requested that everyone stay-up-to-date with their pertussis vaccinations, reports.

The DTap vaccine is used for infants while the Tdap booster is used for adolescents and adults.

According to the CDC, there were nearly 17,000 reported cases, including 14 deaths, in 2009 from pertussis in the United States.