JANESVILLE, Wis. - Whooping cough cases are increasing in Wisconsin, and health officials are urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date.
Since the start of the year, state health officials have investigated nearly 3,500 cases. That's about 11 cases for every 100,000 people.
People who don't have school-aged children may not be thinking about immunizations, but doctors said they should be.
"Everybody sees it as I saw it before I had it as an adult -- that it's a childhood disease and it doesn't happen to adults," said Maxine Dwyer, a nurse at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, who has had two bouts with whooping cough.
"This is the (cough) that sounds like it's coming from your toes. It's deep and it goes on and on and on to the point you feel like you may not be able to catch your next breath," Dwyer said.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the highest instances are in Dane County.
Amanda Kita-Yarbro with Madison-Dane County Public Health said that From Jan. 1 to July 31, officials have investigated a total of 446 cases.
She said 249 of those have been confirmed Pertussis, and 187 are probable cases of the disease. That's compared to 70 cases for all of 2011.
The state had an outbreak in 2004, when 871 those cases were confirmed in Dane County.
Janet Zoellner, with the Rock County Health Department, said officials are also seeing a spike in cases.
"This year has been more severe than any year since 2004, and certainly in Rock County we have never seen this level of reports," Zoellner said.
She said those infected range from 1 month old to a person in their 90s.
"We have about 320 investigations we've done. Last year, we had about 20 that were reported and confirmed. The year before that we had nine reported and confirmed," Zoellner said.
Infants are the most severely affected, so health experts are encouraging families to start protection before they're born.
"Cocooning is a theory that if you are protecting everyone around that pregnant woman, when the baby comes, the baby will also be protected because those holding the baby are protected," Zoellner said.
Dwyer said now is the time to make sure vaccinations are up to date.
"It's spread through the cough and through the air, so it's not like you can stop it from going to other people," Dwyer said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a booster shot called Tdap, which contains protection for three diseases, including Pertussis.
People who aren't sure whether they are due for a booster shot should contact their local health department. Records for people born in Wisconsin are a part of the Wisconsin Immunization Registry. Others can call the health department in the state they're from to get the records.