Whooping cough, a respiratory infection caused by pertussis baterium, reached an epidemic level as declared by health officials in California.

The highly contagious airborne disease is called whooping cough because an infected person makes a “whoop” sound to catch a breath after a severe cough.

In California, nearly 1,5000 cases of whooping cough have been reported and 6 infants, all under three months of age, already have died.

Symptoms of whooping cough start with a cough and runny nose for the first week which can be confused with a cold. Those who are infected suffer weeks to months of rapid coughing fits rarely without a fever.

When infants with the disease keep coughing out air without air going in, they can possibly suffocate. The consequences can be fatal especially in children, infants, and the elderly, who can end up getting encephalopathy or pneumonia.

To curtail what health officials call the worst outbreak in 50 years, they recommend that everyone, especially seniors 64 and older and anyone who is not fully immunized to get vaccinated against the disease.