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PHOENIX -- State health officials want you to go to the doctor to get vaccinated. It's because pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough, is going around.

Jessica Rigler of the Arizona Department of Health Services says that as of Nov. 7, Arizona has been slammed with about 12,000 cases of whooping cough in this latest outbreak.

"The Phoenix area has about 400 cases right now," said Rigler. "We've got a pretty large outbreak going on up north in Mohave County. They make up about 580 of the cases."

The disease is highly contagious, especially among school children. Two Tucson-area school districts are taking action. The Vail school district has banned unvaccinated children at one school from coming to class for up to two weeks. Students at Sycamore Elementary School who haven't had their shots may not be allowed back on campus for three weeks or more.

Rigler says that's a good idea.

"You really want to keep them home during the entire incubation period of the disease," she said. "If they were to catch pertussis, then they're home for that 21-day window to make sure they haven't contracted that disease in that time period."

The disease has several symptoms.

"It can't start with cold-like symptoms," said Rigler. "You might have a runny nose or a mild cough or mild fever. That cough can last up to 100 days, where it can become very severe with a whooping sound. People might vomit or become very tired after coughing."

She noted that it can be fatal in small children.

The best way to protect you and your family from Whooping cough is by going to your doctor and getting vaccinated. Rigler said you shouldn't have any problem doing that.

"We have pertussis vaccine, it's out in doctor's offices around the community," said Rigler. "We always recommend that you call your healthcare provider before to get the shot to make sure they have it in stock. But it's widely available."

Nationally, over 48,000 whooping cough cases were reported last year. That's the highest number since 1955.

Bob McClay, Reporter

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