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Whooping cough hits Tacoma elementary school

A whooping cough outbreak at an elementary school in north Tacoma has sickened at least six children.  Investigators are looking into additional cases. 

The disease, also known as pertussis, can cause serious illness in young children, especially infants.  More than one-third of infants less than one year old who get the disease must be hospitalized, according to the Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department.  

Pertussis is preventable through a vaccine, but some parents are hesitant about vaccination, and outbreaks are becoming more common.  The vaccine does wear off after about ten years.  A new booster shot has been available for teenagers and adults since 2005.   Teens and adults who contract the disease typically have mild symptoms and may not know they have it, but they can pass it along to an infant or pregnant woman.

The health department is urging parents at Washington-Hoyt Elementary to have their child checked by a doctor if he or she develops a cough.