WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - There's a pertussis outbreak in Jefferson County.
Public health officials say there have been 23 confirmed cases of the disease, also known as whooping cough, since June 1.
People who caught the disease range in age from 5 months to 15 years.
Officials say older children, adults, people who've been vaccinated, and those who've had whooping cough before may experience a milder illness, but can still spread it to others.
Whooping cough is spread by coughing or sneezing, or coming in direct contact with respiratory secretions of people who are infected, health officials say. The most common symptom is uncontrollable coughing spells often followed by a characteristic "whoop" sound.
An infected person can spread the disease starting when symptoms begin to three weeks after the coughing begins. Coughing frequently lasts for several weeks.
County Public Health director Ginger Hall says pertussis is highly communicable and can be prevented by the vaccine known as Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.
"We are urging everyone to make sure they are up to date on their immunizations," she said. "Vaccination is the best defense against whooping cough."
To be fully immunized, children need five doses of the vaccine at at 2, 4, and 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years.
Health officials say expectant mothers should get one dose of the vaccine between 27 through 36 weeks of each pregnancy.
Adults who weren't vaccinated as teens should get one dose.
Even with a vaccine, experts say you could still get whooping cough.
“We all get it, but you or I are not going to have too many symptoms. We might have an annoying cold or cough, but we are spreading it at that time and that’s the dangerous thing. So kids get very sick and unvaccinated kids get the sickest. So even though you get vaccinated, you still might get it, but you’re not going to be as sick or hospitalized because of it,” said Health Planner Faith Lustik.
You can learn more by visiting www.jcphs.org and clicking on the pertussis link.