ATLANTA -- Health officials say the nation is on track to have the worst year for whooping cough in more than five decades.
Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far -- more than twice the number seen at this point last year. At this pace, the number of whooping cough cases will surpass every year since 1959.
"There is a lot of this out there, and there may be more coming to place near you," Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
Wisconsin and Washington state each have reported more than 3,000 cases, and high numbers have been seen in a number of other states, including New York, Minnesota, Kansas and Arizona.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease. It leads to severe coughing that causes children to make a distinctive whooping sound as they gasp for breath. In rare cases it can be fatal, and nine children have died so far this year.