Whooping cough, or pertussis,  is headed for what could be record numbers in Washington state this year.

The numbers of the disease, which is especially hard on infants and the elderly, are approaching 463 so far this year (2012) compared with just 82 during this time in 2011.   Last year, the numbers began to climb rapidly in the fall and winter, with a peak number of 45 cases reported in the last week of December 2011.

  Pertussis is a respiratory illness and is considered highly infectious.  It can be spread by coughing or sneezing, and tiny droplets of the bacteria come in contact with others who may ingest it.   It is treated with antibiotics.  There is an immunization for the disease,  WA State law requires children entering school to have had a certain number of immunizations.   Department of Health officials did not elaborate on why the number of cases in WA state have skyrocketed since last fall.   Fortunately, no pertussis related deaths have been reported in our state.  Last fall, several students in the Kennewick School District were treated for the illness.