Health officials have reported an 11-fold increase in pertussis, or whooping cough cases in Clark County, prompting authorities to note that “outbreak levels” have been reached in the southern Washington county.

Clark County, Washington Image/David Benbennick
Clark County, Washington
Image/David Benbennick

County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick told KOMO-TV that 237 cases have been reported in the county so far this year. That’s opposed to the 21 cases reported at this time last year.

The good news is health officials say the number of new cases of whooping cough has been declining with the beginning of school right around the corner.

Pertussis is an infection that affects the airways and is easily spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. The severe cough, often referred to as “Whooping Cough”, can last for weeks or months, sometimes leading to coughing fits and/or vomiting.

Anyone can get pertussis, but it can be very dangerous for infants and people with weakened immune systems. Family members with pertussis, especially mothers, can spread pertussis to newborns.

The best way to prevent pertussis among infants, children, teens, and adults is to get vaccinated. Keeping infants and those at high risk for pertussis complications away from infected people is also important for prevention.

Through the first 26 weeks of 2015, Washington State has reported a total of 866 cases statewide, compared to 159 reported cases in 2014 during the same time period.