RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Eighteen children and adults have been diagnosed with whooping cough in two northeast Nevada towns, state health officials said.
State health officials are now monitoring communities along the Interstate 80 corridor to determine if the illness has spread west.
A contagious respiratory disease, whooping cough is typically considered a childhood illness. But doctors this week verified 12 cases in West Wendover and six cases in Ely among both adults and children.
Health officials say the outbreak illustrates the need for older people to be vaccinated or receive booster shots.
"It's really important that us older folks get vaccinated," said Martha Framsted, spokeswoman for the Nevada State Health Division.
"Most people are vaccinated as children but the effectiveness wanes over the years. It's important for adolescents and adults to get boosters."
Washoe County has had three confirmed cases of whooping cough so far this year, 14 cases in both 2006 and 2005 and 11 cases in 2004.
Whooping cough usually starts with cold- or flu-like symptoms followed by increasingly severe coughing spells. It is most contagious before the coughing begins, experts said.
Known medically as pertussis, whooping cough is named after the "whoop" sound patients sometimes make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell.
Infants might not exhibit all symptoms of the disease, and might not present the characteristic whooping sound, health officials said.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com