Pertussis, or whooping cough, is hitting a cyclic peak.

Pertussis is the "P" in the D-P-T vaccinations most babies get.However, that vaccine can wear off after a while and Missouri is seeinga 365 percent increase in the infection this year.

How do you know it’s pertussis? Click the "report" soundbyte on this page and give it a listen.

EddieHedrick is an emerging infections coordinator for the MissouriDepartment of Health. He says the average number of cases per year inMissouri is about 80. This year the department has diagnosed nearly 370. That’s about a 360 percent increase.

Hedrick says adults can be less affected by the symptoms but can bea resevoir for the disease, inadvertantly passing it onto theirchildren. In small infants, it can be fatal. However, Hedrick says it’s easily treated with antibiotics. He says, just as with any respiratory infection, it’s best to seek medical attention.

Hedrick says the recent outbreak is a result of several different strains that the department is analyzing, and that they didn’t come from just one strain or one area. Pertussis outbreaks are cyclic and hit highs every five years or so.

Patients with whooping cough can remain contagious for up to threeweeks after they contract it, reports the Centers for Disease Control. Anyone who has whooping cough should takegreat care to stay away from infants and persons with respiratoryproblem, because serious consequences can result.

Deaths from whooping cough are rare: just 56 people died of whoopingcough in 2001, 2002 and 2003 combined, according to the CDC. But mostwere under the age of six months.


Jessica Machetta reports [Download/listen MP3]