Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a year round disease. It’s only April and it’s already projected to exceed the number of cases of infection this year, breaking what since the early nineties has been a fairly steady streak.

Washington has already declared an epidemic, and now there are over 100 known cases in Florida. Montana, North Carolina, and Texas also have reported cases. The outbreaks have not yet been linked to the growing trend to forgo vaccinations, but for whooping cough that’s not a surprise.

For adults whooping cough symptoms are no different than any other respiratory illness, and are more likely to be confused with the flu. Presumably, the lower reported rate for adults is due to this fact. For kids, however, whooping cough symptoms can be deadly, especially in young babies that are not yet eligible for vaccination.

Kids present with more apparent whooping cough symptoms, coughing so hard that their lungs completely empty, leading to an inhalation that creates the hallmark whooping sound.

The new spread of whooping cough has a number of possible sources: Pertussis, a bacteria, may be mutating. As with other diseases, the vaccine may need to be updated and stronger antibiotics prescribed. More likely, however, is that adults can easily spread the disease to children, especially unvaccinated children or those who haven’t received a booster. This is what’s been reported in Florida.

There is a booster for adults: the TDAP. TDAP stands for Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis. Diphtheria and Tetanus are serious enough for adults that it’s worth getting. Most medical professionals recommend a regular Tetanus booster anyhow, just make sure that it also contains the booster for Pertussis as there are different combinations.

Keep your immune system strong, and remember to take it easy whenever you think you’re sick—you’ll get better faster and you’ll reduce the chance of spreading the disease to family members.

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