OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Chris Gregoire is reaching into emergency funds to help contain the state's whooping cough epidemic.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. It can be deadly for infants who are unable to get immunized before they reach 4-to-6 weeks of age.
Health officials said Washington state is on pace to hit more than 3,000 whooping cough cases for the year. That's a level that hasn't been seen in 60 years.
In Oregon, there have been 149 confirmed cases so far this year. In comparison, there were 80 cases in the first four months of 2011. Oregon health officials have been watching the spread in Wash. closely, hoping to avoid a similar outbreak.
"The spread of it is really pretty local so it is from one person to the next, depending on how people travel or we might have an outbreak or clusters in schools or where ever," said Katrina Hedberg with Oregon Health Authority.
People were urged to get vaccinated. It's available at health clinics and even some pharmacies.
Gov. Gregoire said Thursday she will make $90,000 in crisis cash available to help strengthen a public awareness campaign about the need for vaccinations. The state Department of Health is already looking to spend about $200,000 on the effort.
Gregoire also said the federal government is allowing the state to divert some federal cash toward the purchase of 27,000 doses of the whooping cough vaccine. Those will be made available to uninsured residents.