Cases of pertussis or whooping cough remain on the rise across Iowa. Dr. Patricia Quinlisk is medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health. “We’ve had about twice as many cases this year as we did last year and unfortunately, right now, we’re projecting we’ll even have twice as many next year as we had this year,” Quinlisk said. “So our numbers are going up, we’ve got more children getting ill and we’re asking people to try and help us get this under control.”

Pertussis is caused by bacteria and causes severe coughing spells. In some cases, the disease can turn fatal. Quinlisk is encouraging parents to make sure their children are fully vaccinated. Studies show 75% of infants who get pertussis had the illness passed to them by an adult in the household. “So, we want to make sure that adults understand that they need to make sure that they’re vaccinated,” Quinlisk said. “Even though we as adults don’t get that sick, we can pass it on to children who can get quite ill with this.”

The whooping cough vaccine is required for kids going to kindergarten, but Quinlisk says adults are the key to stopping the spread of the disease. Adults can boost their immunity by making sure they’re up to date on their tetanus booster.

Pertussis was added to the tetanus booster several years ago. “If you can’t remember the last time you had a tetanus shot, you can go in and get this booster,” Quinlisk said. “Even though traditionally you get boosted against tetanus every 10 years, because of this need to get adults boosted for the pertussis, you can go in a lot sooner than the 10 years…you can go in just a couple years after you had your last tetanus booster and have this special shot for whooping cough also.” The booster shot is available at Iowa’s county health departments.