BOISE -- Whooping cough is back in the news with cases across our region and in Idaho.
There's been a whooping cough epidemic happening in Washington state, and on Thursday an infant in Pocatello died from whooping cough.
The Central District Health Department in Boise is telling doctors to look out for this disease.
“Whooping cough is sort of this silent epidemic. We think there are a lot more case out there than we have been diagnosing,” said Boise pediatrician Dr. Robert Lindsay.
Whooping cough is an airborne disease that can be spread by coughing and coming into contact with other people who have it.
“It’s often misdiagnosed because in the first couple of weeks it appears to be more like the common cold, you'll have a runny nose and other symptoms like that," said CDHD spokesman Dave Fotsch.
While adults can get this highly contagious disease, infants are especially susceptible, and in some cases it could be deadly.
"It's most serious in infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated against the disease, and almost half of those kids end up being hospitalized," said Fotsch.
Whooping cough can weaken an infant’s immune system, which leads to other complications like pneumonia or respiratory infections that can ultimately lead to death.
"And in very young children they cough so hard that they lose their air and they have to make this inhaling sound that sounds like a whoop,” said Fotsch.
Dr. Linsday says prevention is key.
"The unfortunate thing is many experts say the treatment of pertussis doesn't alter the disease," said Dr. Lindsay.
Central District Health says parents can help protect infants by keeping them away from anyone who has a cold or is coughing.
Health officials say since the beginning of the year there has been one confirmed case of whooping cough in Ada County. That child survived.