Twenty-one new cases of whooping cough known as pertussis have been reported in children and teens at 17 schools around San Diego County.

The number is much higher than the 143 cases reported last year. The highest number was 371 in San Diego County in 2005.

Two infants around Sand Diego area have died this year due to this whooping cough, which has been declared an epidemic in California.

Children and residents are highly recommended to get vaccinated to protect themselves from this whooping cough according to the county health officials.

"In response to the state whooping cough epidemic, the state recently passed a new law that will require a Tdap vaccine for students 10 years old and up," noted Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer.

While protecting against pertussis, the Tdap vaccine also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. The symptoms of pertussis begins with cough and a runny nose for up to couple of weeks, followed by weeks of rapid coughing fits that may end with a whooping sound. The illness, which may include a gentle fever, is treatable with antibiotics.