The Marion County Health Department has been investigating an increased number of whooping cough cases in the county. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a bacterial disease that is easily transmitted from person to person. It is spread through the air during talking, sneezing or coughing. It can be a serious illness, especially for young infants. Diedre Serene, department administrator, said during the first one to two weeks, persons with whooping cough may only experience a runny nose and non-productive cough, similar to a cold. ?Young children may have more serious coughing fits, often followed by a whooping sound as they try to catch their breath,? she said. ?After coughing, a person often feels well. Coughing spells may continue for several weeks or months. Serene said adults and children 7 years of age and older who get whooping cough may have only a prolonged cough. Although whooping cough is often thought of as a childhood disease, whooping cough can occur among persons of any age. Anyone with a cough that persists for two weeks, without other explanation, should see a health care provider, Serene said. Early diagnosis and treatment can shorten the contagious period. Antibiotics may be needed for all household and other close contacts to prevent spread of the disease. Parents are also advised to keep infants?especially those less than 6 months of age?away from persons with a cough illness because infants are more likely to experience severe illness if they develop whooping cough. The single most effective control measure is immunization of the most vulnerable population. Immunization against pertussis is recommended at age 2, 4, 6 and 12 months, with a booster at kindergarten entry. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that persons 11 years of age through 64 years of age receive the Tdap vaccine (tetanus and diph?theria and pertussis). For more information on whooping cough, or to get vaccinated, contact your physician or the Marion County Health Department at 620-382-2550.