SHORELINE, Wash. Washington state's top health official says whooping cough disease has reached epidemic levels in the state.
Health Secretary Mary Selecky says the 640 cases reported in 23 counties so far this year puts the state on a pace to have the highest number in decades. During the same time period last year, 94 cases were reported.
"We're very concerned about the continued rapid increase in reported cases," said Selecky. "This disease can be very serious for young babies who often get whooping cough from adults and other family members."
Selecky on Tuesday urged whooping cough vaccines for all children and adults.
"Many adults don't realize they need to be vaccinated, or they assume they have been," said state health officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. "We're asking everyone to verify with their health care provider that they're up to date on vaccines. We're also asking everyone to use good health manners - like cover your cough and stay home when you're sick - that will also help prevent spreading whooping cough."
Whooping cough, or Pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing.
The disease known for coughing fits with a whooping sound is most dangerous for infants. Four have died in the previous two years in Washington.