California health officials are seeking to educate its residents of the importance of getting vaccinated against whooping cough after the epidemic claimed its tenth victim.

A six-week-old baby in San Diego of whooping cough last week and more than 5,270 cases of the illness have been reported in California this year.

All of the deaths occurred in infants under the age of 3 months, says Michael Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is highly contagious disease that affects the lungs and airways. It is spread by breathing in airborne droplets from the nose and mouth of some who is already infected. The last peak reported 3,182 cases of the disease in with 7 deaths in California.

Most children get five doses of the vaccine DTaP before kindergarten to prevent whooping cough, but those vaccines don't immunize them for life.

Adults around the young child or infant are therefore encouraged to be vaccinated as they risk contacting the illness and passing it over to a young child or infant.

If caught early, antibiotics may help reduce the severity and length of the illness.