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CDC: Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic in 50 Years

Nine babies have died so far from an epidemic of pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.  The epidemic, which has been building over recent months, is now the worst the nation has seen in more than half a century, and the CDC is urging adults to be vaccinated to stem the tide of the bacterial disease. has more:

The epidemic has killed nine babies so far and babies are by far the most vulnerable to the disease, also known as pertussis, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The best way to protect them is to vaccinate the adults around them, and to vaccinate pregnant women so their babies are born with some immunity.

"As of today, nationwide nearly 18,000 cases have been reported to the CDC," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters in a conference call. "That is nearly twice as many as reported last year. We may be on track for a record high pertussis rate this year," she added.

"We may need to go back to 1959 to find as many cases. I think there may be more coming to a place near you."

The last record year was 2010, when 27,000 cases were reported and 27 people died. In 1959, 40,000 cases were reported.

In 2008, whooping cough killed 195,000 people globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Image: Sick child, via Shutterstock