Late last month, the number of pertussis infections--known as "whooping cough"--reached such a high level in Washington state that health officials have declared an "epidemic," CNN.com reports. Though there have been no deaths reported so far, tere were 640 cases so far in 2012, compared with just 94 cases in the state by this time last year. From CNN:
The disease is preventable through a vaccine, which is given to children through a series of five injections from 2 months to 4 or 6 years of age. Whooping cough is most serious in infants, especially when they're too young to get vaccinated or aren't fully protected yet.
Even after all five shots, the childhood vaccine doesn't protect you for life. Booster shots are recommended after age 11 and every 10 years during adulthood through the Tdap vaccine, which also protects against tetanus and diphtheria. Health officials recommend anyone with close contact with babies to get up-to-date with their shots.
However, some parents choose to not vaccinate their children or, in other cases, vaccinated people lose their immunity because the vaccine has worn off.
Washington health officials have started airing a public service announcement that features a mother who lost her baby to whooping cough last year. The PSA can be heard here.
Image: Baby receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock.