Wash. whooping cough cases on rise in 2012

Health officials have seen a major increase in the number of whooping cough cases in the state of Washington this year, with 640 cases in total in 23 counties in 2012.

In King County alone, there have been 100 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis. There were 94 cases reported throughout the state during the same time period in 2011, Mercer Island Reporter reports.

"We're very concerned about the continued rapid increase in reported cases," Mary Selecky, the secretary of health, said, according to Mercer Island Reporter. "This disease can be very serious for young babies, who often get whooping cough from adults and other family members. We want all teens and adults who haven't had Tdap to be vaccinated to help protect babies that are too young for the vaccine."

The pertussis vaccine can wear off over time and health officials encourage those who have gotten the vaccine and are 11 years of age or older to get the Tdap booster. The booster is particularly important for people with close contact to babies under the age of one, since they are the most susceptible to the disease.

"Many adults don't realize they need to be vaccinated, or they assume they have been," Maxine Hayes, the state health officer, said, according to Mercer Island Reporter. "We're asking everyone to verify with their health care provider that they're up-to-date on vaccines. We're also asking everyone to use good health manners - like cover your cough and stay home when you're sick - that will also help prevent spreading whooping cough."

Pertussis spreads by sneezing and coughing and is most serious for infants and those without full protection.