The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced on Tuesday that the number of cases of whooping cough has increased to 21 since the beginning of 2014, three times the number of cases at this time last year.
Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is highly contagious and can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. Symptoms include cold-like sneezing, runny nose, mild cough and low fever. The cough becomes more severe after one to two weeks and medicines typically do not offer relief.
"People with whooping cough usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close proximity with others, who then breathe in the whooping cough bacteria," Jennifer Tripp, the Southwest District Health program manager, said. "Most fully-immunized children are at a lower risk for contracting whooping cough, so the best way to protect against it is immunization."
Tripp said adults and adolescents are common sources of infection for young children. Parents are encouraged to keep young infants away from people with cough illnesses until they are old enough to be fully vaccinated against pertussis.
The diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine is typically administered to young children in a series of five shots. Pre-teens and teenagers should receive a booster shot for pertussis. Adults are recommended to receive the booster as well.
Tripp said the vaccine is available through healthcare providers and often covered by insurance. For those who do not have insurance or are on Medicare, shots are available at Southwest District Health.
"The whooping cough immunizations you received as a child do not provide lifetime protection," Tripp said. "Everyone should have at least one dose of whooping cough. Be proactive and check with your doctor to make sure your family is up-to-date on their shots."