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Whooping cough spreads in Utah

  |   July 18, 2012 at 11:30 PM
SALT LAKE CITY, July 18 (UPI) -- Utah is reporting elevated levels of whooping cough, or pertussis, exceeding the numbers reported in the last several years, state health officials said.

"It's infecting record numbers, and it's raging through the county. In fact, numbers are elevated statewide," Ilene Risk, epidemiology bureau director for the Salt Lake Valley Health Department told The Salt Lake Tribune. "About 280 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the valley so far this year, and it's estimated that each case represents 10 to 20 cases that go unreported. In the past two weeks, 21 new cases have been tallied, which is 10 more than the five-year average during the same time frame."

Whooping cough, often called the cough of a 100 days, can be difficult to diagnose in adults and can be fatal to babies age 1 and younger, as well as toddlers who have not completed the vaccine series for pertussis.

Parents and family members of infants are often told to get a pertussis vaccine so they cannot infect a baby.

The disease is very contagious and a cough of an infected person can spread whooping cough quickly.

The Tdap -- tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis -- immunization series, available at county health departments and from personal physicians, is recommended for teens and adults who have not been vaccinated with it in the past 10 years, federal health officials advise.

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