Whooping cough infections spread through South Florida

A growing number of whooping cough infections in South Florida and throughout the state have been fueled by children and adults who have not been vaccinated, experts have warned.

Four children and one adult came down with whooping cough in April in Broward County. In September, a Palm Beach County two-month-old died from a case of whooping cough after catching it from an adult with mild illness. The baby was too young to get vaccinated and had no immune protection, the Sun Sentinel reports.

"Parents should bring their children to be vaccinated," Timothy O'Connor, a Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman, said, according to the Sun Sentinel. "We want adults to get the vaccine, too, especially if they are around children."

There have been nine total cases of pertussis in Broward County this year, with seven in Palm Beach County during the same time frame. There were only 10 cases through the same date in the two counties last year.

Statewide, Tampa Bay has had the most cases with 120 this year, up from 91 during the same time frame last year. The pace in Tampa Bay is slightly below the peak of 427 cases of pertussis in 2009.

Pertussis spreads through droplets in coughs and sneezes from infected people. The symptoms begin with a cough, mild fever and a runny nose before worsening over the course of a week or more. Infants under the age of one are 10 times more likely to catch whooping cough versus the general population.