Large Increase in Whooping Cough Cases This Year

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Compared to this time last year, the number of whooping cough or pertussis cases has increased by 45%.

The state has already seen nearly 550 cases and it's just August.

It's National Immunization Awareness Month and with the school year starting soon, the Michigan Department of Community Health said it's important to get the word out now.

"When there are pockets of communities that have low vaccination rates and they're going to be in touch - a lot of people seeing each other out and about enjoying the weather - there's a good chance that pertussis could circulate within that community very quickly," said Angela Minicucci of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Adults can contract the disease and spread it just as easily as children.

"Often times we'll see adults have it, adolescents may have it, siblings may have it, but then when it passes onto an infant, it can be fatal," Minicucci warned.

Getting the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself.

Dr. Havlichek, an MSU Professor of Medicine, said getting people of all ages vaccinated will decrease the spread of the infection.

"We hope that by vaccinating the population, we'll be able to develop what's kind of called herd immunity and that fewer people might be carriers and that those people might be less likely to expose others," Dr. Havlichek explained.

The MDCH recommends visiting your family's physician if you notice your child has a persistent cough.

"Often times with pertussis it can be misdiagnosed early on because it does start out as a light cough and then it gets really severe," Minicucci said.

Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics, but if the case is severe, Dr. Havlichek said, it could block oxygen flow to the brain and you could end up in the ICU.

If your family can't afford the vaccine, the Michigan Department of Community Health has a program for low income families. It's called Vaccines for Children.

Visit to find tips for keeping your kids healthy, and for resources you need on where to find a vaccination clinic and support systems to help you pay.