The Iowa Department of Public Health says cases of pertussis or whooping cough continue to grow in Iowa. Department medical director, Patricia Quinlisk, says there were 650 confirmed cases in 2010 and they have continued into the new year.

Quinlisk says the number of cases have not eased up and they don’t expect them to for awhile as the cases typically continue on for awhile once they get started. She says it could be a year or so before the cases go down. Quinlisk says they only thing they can do is to try and slow the spread of the disease.

Quinlisk says they encourage people to get vaccinated, and while the vaccine is not 100% perfect in keeping you from getting pertussis, it does help cut the spread. She says they particularly want people who live around young children, or children with young diseases to get vaccinated so they don’t bring the disease into the household.

Quinlisk says everyone can take steps to be sure whooping cough doesn’t spread. She says anytime you cough, cover your mouth, as the disease is spread by people coughing and the disease gets into the air. Quinlisk says adults may have the disease and not know it.

Quinlisk says most adults who get the disease have a cough, and the cough is bad, but they don’t get sick enough to keep them from going to work, and then they go into work and spread the disease. Quinlisk says whooping cough has the most impact on young kids. She says the airways of children are so small, that when the bacteria gets into their airways and causes the disease, they often have trouble breathing because their airways are swollen.

The whoop in their cough is an indication they are struggling to breathe, and it can be very serious. Quinlisk says there was a case two years ago of an Iowa child dying from whooping cough.