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Whooping Cough on the Rise, New York Officials Urge Vaccinations

Update Date: Jul 19, 2012 11:04 AM EDT

Almost 1,000 cases of the contagious whooping cough have been confirmed so far in 2012, according to preliminary reports from New York Health Department. That number is up 931 cases reported in all of 2011.

The dramatic increase has caused health officials to call for people to get vaccinated against the potentially fatal illness. The cough is intense, lasts for weeks and can lead to pneumonia, and inability to breathe or death.

The state health department is urging people to get the vaccine, a five-shot series referred to as DTaP. It is recommended for children at ages 2, 4, 6 and 18-months, and at 4 to 6 years old.

The CDC recommends that at age 11 or 12 kids get the booster shot called Tdap.

Teens and adults, especially those in contact with infants, should also get the Tdap shot, the state health department said.

New York is one of more than a dozen U.S. states reporting a greater than three-fold increase in reported cases of the whooping cough since 2011. Three New York toddlers died from the illness last year.

Across the country this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the number of cases reported in June was nearly 44 percent higher than the same period last year.

Health officials said the disease's number of reported cases hits a peak every three to five years.

A spokesman for the health department said New York is seeing its latest peak after earlier outbreaks in 2004 and to a lesser degree in 2008.

In 2004, the state reported over 2,000 cases and in 2008, over 550. In 2009, a trough in the cycle, the state reported just over 350, he said.

Officials say the nature of the disease is really something that is not completely understood and is happening in all states across the nation.

According to the CDC, about nine out of every 100,000 Americans get the whooping cough each year and it is especially dangerous for children younger than a year old who have yet to complete the full cycle of vaccinations against the ailment.

Symptoms of the cough are somewhat flu-like and can include sneezing, a runny nose, or a fever with a mild cough that becomes more severe in the first or second week. Coughing fits are often followed by a high-pitched whoop, giving the illness its name.

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