BURLINGTON, Vt.Vermont health officials are urging adults to get a new vaccine for whooping cough as the state deals with an outbreak of the disease.
More than 500 people have been affected by whooping cough or pertussis this year. That's 10 times the amount reported by the end of 2011.
More than 20 babies younger than a year have had the disease and six infants have had to be hospitalized.
The Health Department is recommending people get a Tdap vaccine, which is a booster against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, to help prevent the spread of the disease, especially to infants who are too young to get a vaccine.
"Vermont has not had an infant death from whooping cough in more than 20 years and we all must do everything we can to keep it that way," state health commissioner Dr. Harry Chen said in a written statement. "We are urging everyone over the age of 11 to take advantage of our vaccine clinics."
Pertussis is a respiratory illness spread through coughing or sneezing. It is caused by bacteria called Bordetella pertussis that attaches to the lining of the upper respiratory system and releases toxins. Symptoms begin as cold-like but after one to two weeks, can turn into severe coughing fits that continue for weeks.
The disease is named for the "whooping sound" that's created when people are forced to inhale following rapid coughing fits that deplete their lungs of air.
The Health Department will be holding free vaccination clinics next Wednesday at its 12 local district offices around the state for Vermonters who can't get to their doctor for a shot.
"It's definitely on the rise," Dr. Joseph Hagan, a local pediatrician told CBS affiliate WCAX in Burlington, Vt. "I mean, this is something we have been concerned about for some time."
WCAX reports that the health department thinks adults over 19 are part of the problem, because many of the children are likely getting the disease from their parents whose childhood vaccinations are wearing off.
During 2012, 49 states and Washington D.C. reported increased cases of whooping cough and a majority of states reported outbreaks.
A pertussis outbreak was declared in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wisconsin has reported more than 5,500 cases as of December and Minnesota has also seen about 4,200 cases during 2012. Colorado declared a whooping cough epidemic in August and more than 1,300 cases have been reported as of Dec. 10.