Wisconsin had nearly six times more whooping cough cases this year than it did last year.According to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, there were nearly 5,700 confirmed and probable cases of whooping cough this year as of mid-December. There were 1,200 cases in 2011.
Stephanie Smiley is a spokeswoman for the state health department. She says whooping cough is a cyclical disease.
"Wisconsin's last large outbreak was in the 2004-2005 time frame and that also had more than 5,600 reported cases," she says. "Because we don't understand why it tends to peaks every several years it's still important that everyone get vaccinated. We still recommend that that's the best defense against pertussis."
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can be potentially fatal for infants. In adults it resembles a really bad cold. Smiley says newborns, unfortunately, can't be vaccinated against the disease.
"With folks being together with family and the holidays if you are sick please just consider staying home," she says. "It's easy to be tempted to go and join the family during the holidays but you do not want to spread the disease to folks who haven't been vaccinated."
Smiley says Wisconsin currently has the nation's highest rate of whooping cough cases.