Published: Aug 31, 2013 6:01 PM EDT

FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Health officials in Okaloosa County announced an outbreak of whopping cough with 13 confirmed cases so far this year.
    
The Okaloosa County Health Department announced on Friday the outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough. Two infants and eight children are among those suffering from the contagious disease, as well as adolescents and adults.
    
Following the announcement, health officials urged residents to have their children immunized against the contagious disease.
    
"By immunizing all children, we protect the health of the whole community," the county's Health Department Director Dr. Karen Chapman told The Northwest Florida Daily news (http://bit.ly/17wDmoJ ).
    
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is entirely preventable and is spread by an infected person coughing or sneezing, Chapman said.  "These cases are linked to each other by a common exposure route."
    
All patients with confirmed cases of whooping cough have been treated and are recovering.
    
The symptoms of whooping cough include sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough that persists over two weeks and becomes worse. "It's a rapid, spasmodic cough, and there's this intake of breath that sounds like a whoop," Chapman said.
    
The coughing spells often make it hard for a person to eat.
    
"It is a very serious illness and can lead to death, especially in infants and the elderly," Chapman said.

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