BENNINGTON - The Department of Health wants all Vermonters over age 11, and especially those over 19, to get vaccinated against whooping cough and is holding clinics next week at each of its 12 district offices across the state to combat what it calls an epidemic.

In Bennington, the clinic will be at 324 Main Street, Bennington Suite 2. Dr. Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist for infectious disease with the Department of Health, said the clinics will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. The shots are free.

The Health Department has recorded 522 cases of whooping cough this year, 10 times the normal amount. Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial disease spread through "respiratory discharge" via sneezing and coughing.

The state has ordered 3,500 doses of the vaccine to bolster what it already has in stock, according to Kelso. The adult version of the vaccine also protects against tetanus and diphtheria, and those who have had a vaccine against tetanus can get this new vaccine.

Dr. Lewis First, chief of pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care, said those vaccinated can still get sick with whooping cough but the symptoms are less severe and it will not spread as easily. Aside from vaccination, which is the best preventative measure, people should routinely wash their hands and cough into tissues or their sleeves, he said. First and Kelso, along with Commissioner of the Department of Health, Dr.


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Harry Chen, spoke about the disease and vaccination clinics at a press conference Thursday.

While no one has died from whooping cough in at least 20 years, it is a potentially fatal disease especially for infants. According to the Health Department, over 20 infants under one year of age have been diagnosed with whooping cough this year.