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Whooping cough outbreak hits Kentucky counties

We're alerting you about an infection that can put your children's health at risk.

Doctors are warning about a nationwide epidemic of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, and the effects are already being felt in Kentucky. Health departments in Madison County, Estill County, and Northern Kentucky say they're dealing with whooping cough outbreaks.

You know it from the sound, and for babies, the illness can turn deadly.

"It often starts out as an illness that's like a cold," explains Division of Epidemiology's Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, "you can have a runny nose, a mild cough, a low grade fever and then it turns into a much stronger cough."

Dr. Humbaugh says whooping cough is on the rise in Kentucky. In 2007, doctors reported 50 cases to the state. Three years later, more than 300. And if we continue at our current pace for 2012, doctors say we'll surpass 300 soon.

"Every three to five years there usually is an outbreak that kind of increases our numbers. We don't know the reason for that from a medical standpoint, we just know that it does come in cycles," notes Dr. Katrina Hood with Pediatric & Adolescent Associates.

Dr. Hood is afraid the numbers will rise before they fall. The only way to keep pertussis at bay, she says, is to prevent it with vaccinations. She highly recommends pregnant woman, teens, and grandparents get vaccinated if they aren't already.

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