Wash. opens up emergency money to stop whooping cough epidemic

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire opened up an emergency fund on Thursday in an effort to contain a whooping cough epidemic that has hospitalized 20 children under the age of one in 2012.

Gregoire has made $90,000 available to strengthen the public awareness campaign about the need to vaccinate against the highly infectious disease that is also known as pertussis. The state's Department of Health projects that it will spend approximately $200,000 on the campaign. The state has reported 1,132 cases of pertussis in 2012, which is approximately 10 times more than the number of cases reported at the same time in 2011, Associated Press reports.

"Pertussis is very serious, especially for babies," Mary Selecky, the state's secretary of health, said, according to Associated Press. "It's vital that teens and adults are current on their immunizations because they're often the ones who give whooping cough to babies."

The state has also received approval to divert federal funds toward purchasing 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccines that will be available for the uninsured.

Pertussis is a respiratory illness spread by sneezing and coughing. Infants are especially susceptible to the disease because they cannot receive immunizations before reaching four to six weeks of age. Babies can get the illness from family members and adults because the shots the adults get as children can wear off over time.