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Whooping Cough on the rise in Erie County

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Erie County's Health Commissioner is calling on all residents to make sure they're vaccinated for Whooping Cough in light of a recent increase in the infection locally.

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said Pertussis, more commonly known as Whooping Cough, is characterized by severe coughing spells that end in a whooping sound when a breath is taken.

Dr. Burstein said the infection is something we see year round locally, but over the last couple of months there has been an increase in cases on Grand Island and in East Aurora. 

"What we're seeing is primarily infections among school age children, middle and high school children," said Dr. Burstein. "Where typically the infection presents as a cough, like a persistent cough. Pertussis has been called the 100 day cough because people really do cough for several months if they're not treated."

Dr. Burstein adds Whooping Cough is especially dangerous for young children. 

"It can cause a severe cough and respiratory distress where children would need to be hospitalized for breathing support. We know that young children can die from Pertussis because their airways are so small and they can't handle the secretions," according to Dr. Burstein.

Burstein noted Whooping Cough is preventable with vaccinations and is urging Erie County residents to make sure they are vaccinated.

"As adults, we don't become as ill as children... We can cough for several months," says Dr.  Burstein, adding "You're going to miss work, you're going to miss school. You can infect other people in your family. You can infect your classmates or coworkers."

She notes women who are vaccinated while they are pregnant can pass some level of immunity on to their unborn baby, providing some protection against Pertussis.

Dr. Burstein says you can receive the vaccine at your doctor or an urgent care facility.