Updated Monday, November 19, 2012 at 11:46 PM
State health officials have reported the record number of whooping cough, or pertussis, cases in Washington state is easing, with some areas returning to levels more typical before the epidemic.
In Walla Walla, for example, only one case has been reported this month, said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department. "That's down from a peak in August of 17 cases, dropped to four in September, dropped to one in October."
The majority of victims continue to be between 11-15 years of age, he added.
However pertussis is still active and those at highest risk of serious illness — especially babies — remain vulnerable.
"We're watching whooping cough activity closely," said state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. "We're encouraged to see the pace of new cases in our state slowing, but we are not completely out of the woods."
With more than 4,500 reported whooping cough cases so far this year, 2012 already has the highest number of cases in more than 70 years.
Some areas of the state are still dealing with high numbers while others are returning to levels closer to what they experienced before the epidemic, health officials said.
The upcoming weeks could present some renewed vigor in the disease, Selecky said. "With family and friends gathering for the holidays, disease can spread easily. It's important for adults and teens to be current on their whooping cough vaccines to protect babies from this serious illness. And of course, remember to wash your hands often, cover your cough, and stay home when you're sick."
All adults should get a one-time Tdap booster, and kids should get their whooping cough vaccinations on schedule, a five-dose series that starts at 2 months old and is complete before age 7, with one booster at age 11 or 12.
Washington state purchases and provides all recommended vaccines for kids through age 18, available from health-care providers across the state.