The State Health Department reports about three times as many whooping cough cases this year, as last. So far this year, 1,317 confirmed, probable or suspected cases have been reported. That compares with 742 all of last year.
At Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Altoona, Dr. Sathya Aswathappa says, "we are seeing a little bit more number of cases than usual for this time of year and it's been going on for the last two or three months or so."
Dr Aswathappa says it's not unusual to see cases of whooping cough in college students because immunity really starts to wane in that age group.
He says it's essential for children to get a series of vaccines starting at six weeks of age, receive booster shots before starting school and again at the age of eleven or twelve. The shots are also recommended for parents and other adults in contact with children, especially babies.
Dr. Aswathappa says, "it's a serious problem. These little infants are prone to a lot of complications from this, especially breathing difficulties, pneumonia and other problems, including ear infections." He says infants must immediately be treated with antibiotics.
The State Health Department says outbreaks of whooping cough seem to be cyclical, going up one year and down the next, but the high number of cases this year serve as a great reminder of the importance of staying up to date on vaccinations.