BOSTON (CBS) – Cases of pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough, have seen a dramatic spike this year.

The Department of Public Health reports that as of August 18th, there were 409 reported cases in the state this year compared to just 120 cases at the same time last year.

Pertussis tends to increase and decrease in a five year cycle, but this year is unusual. Dr. Larry Madoff, an epidemiologist with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, says they don’t know why this year’s outbreak is so extreme.

“It’s really been an unprecedented number, the most since 1959 all over the country. In some areas of the country they’ve even declared and epidemic,” he said.

Whooping cough is particularly dangerous for kids and babies because it can cause them to stop breathing.

Health officials are advising adults who are around children to get vaccinated.

At the Codman Street Health Center they have been focused on education. Many children are vaccinated at a young age, but Dr. Stephen Tringale says adults often need a fresh dose of the vaccine.

“If they’ve had this vaccine in the past 4 or 5 years, that’s fine and if they haven’t we’re going to give it to them,” Dr. Tringale said.

Whooping cough symptoms typically start as a cold, and evolve into a lasting cough that makes a distinct sound like a “whoop.”

Vomiting after coughing is also a common sign of the illness.

WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk contributed to this report.


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