State headed for whooping cough record

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SEATTLE (AP) - The number of whooping cough cases in Washington continues to rise, and the state Health Department says it will likely set a record in 2012.

Figures released Tuesday show there have been 549 cases of pertussis through March 24. That's up 86 cases in a week.

The department's immunization program health communication manager, Michele Roberts, says the outbreak is likely to exceed the number of about 950 cases last year and the previous record of about 1,020 in 2005.

Pertussis has reached epidemic levels in six counties - Jefferson, Cowlitz, Kittitas, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom.

Roberts says the persistent cough is most serious in infants. She says 37 babies have had whooping cough this year and 12 have been hospitalized. There have been no pertussis deaths this year in Washington.