Idaho public health officials urge residents to vaccinate against whooping cough

Idaho public health officials urged state residents to vaccinate children against pertussis-commonly known as whooping cough-as the number of cases rises significantly in the state.

Approximately twice as many cases of whooping cough have been reported this year in Idaho, compared to 2012 and 2013, and officials have grown increasingly concerned with the start of the 2014-15 school year ahead in coming weeks.

From January through July, 241 cases were reported, compared to 122 cases during the same time last year, and one infant has died from the condition. The rate of infection is highest among school-age children ages 5 to 17, who can unknowingly spread the infection by coughing or sneezing while in close contact to other children.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, vaccination rates in the state are among the lowest in the country. Infants and small children are at higher risk for developing severe health complications leading to hospitalization.

"Whooping cough can be life-threatening for small children and infants," Mitch Scoggins, the program manager for the Idaho Immunization Program, said. "About half of babies younger than a year old who get the disease need hospitalization. To protect them, their family members and others who have contact with them need to get vaccinated so they don't pass the disease along."