The outbreak began in mid-May, with three cases of the highly-contagious respiratory disease. Now there are 23 reported cases, according to the Reno County Health Department, in Hutchinson. As of June 2nd, 134 cases of pertussis had been reported in Kansas this year. Pertussis causes rapid and violent coughing, and the struggle to inhale while coughing sometimes causes a “whooping” sound. Pertussis most commonly affects babies and young children, and can be fatal—especially during the first year of life. The bacteria responsible for the disease are spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Symptoms appear one to three weeks after exposure. The best defense against pertussis is vaccination. Protection from the childhood vaccination tends to wane over time, but a booster shot is available. Getting the booster shot can protect you, as well as vulnerable babies you might come into contact with. Those who’ve been vaccinated may still catch pertussis, but the symptoms will likely be milder than if you have not been immunized. Health officials are asking anyone who’s been coughing for two weeks without explanation to see a doctor.