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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Broward County, in the past two weeks, has had four recent cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough. The disease is serious, and can be fatal—especially in babies under one.

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The Florida Department of Health (DOH) in Broward County identified four cases of whooping cough involving three adolescents and one infant–that brings the total of five for the year.

The DOH is encouraging residents to ensure they have been vaccinated against the disease.

“Pertussis is a very serious, yet preventable disease. Babies and young children often get the disease from family members so we urge the community to seek vaccination right away to decrease the risk of infection,” said Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director, Florida Department of Health in Broward County in a press release. “In addition, vaccinating children helps protect the health of the whole community, especially those people who cannot be vaccinated. This includes children who are too young, those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and individuals with compromised immune systems.”

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Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract. The disease spreads easily from person to person, according to the DOH.

Transmission of the infection may also come through direct contact with droplets from an infected person’s cough.

Pertussis symptoms are like a cold but within two weeks, the cough can become much worse.

Pertussis can infect people of all ages, yet most commonly affects infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than one year of age. Children and the elderly with pertussis often have episodes of rapid, sporadic coughing followed by a characteristic intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop.” These “whooping” coughing spells can make it hard for a child or older adult to eat, drink, or even breathe.

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To learn more about pertussis and vaccinations against the disease, visit this DOH webpage OR click here.