MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Whooping cough spiked in most states in 2012, but Wisconsin was hit especially hard by the potentially deadly disease, registering the nation's highest rate and at least one death.
According to the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, there were nearly 5,700 confirmed and probable cases as of Dec. 14, the most recent statistics available. During 2011, nearly 1,200 cases were reported.
Through Nov. 23, more than 93 of every 100,000 Wisconsin residents contracted whooping cough, or pertussis, in 2012, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's more than eight times the national average.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can seem like a bad cold in adults but that can be deadly in infants. Outbreaks tend to happen every three to five years, and the last one on par with this year's in Wisconsin was in 2004, when more than 5,600 cases were reported.
"The cyclical pattern is not completely understood, but that's why it's important that everyone get vaccinated including adults," State Health Department spokeswoman Stephanie Smiley said. "It appears that vaccination is still the best prevention."
A Wisconsin infant with whooping cough died in February, but Smiley didn't know offhand whether anyone else died of the disease this year.