PROVO, Utah (AP) — Whooping cough cases have doubled in Utah County this year, and public health officials are concerned there could be more as the school year begins.

Seventy whooping cough cases have been confirmed so far this year, KUTV-TV reported Wednesday. It's twice as many cases as those reported during the same time period last year.

Lisa Guerra, registered nurse and epidemiology coordinator at the Utah County Health Department, is not sure exactly what contributed to the increase, but she said it's likely some of the patients aren't immunized.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is very contagious.

"We expect more cases to happen in school since the students are in very close quarters," Guerra said.

Young children and babies are more susceptible to whooping cough than adults and can experience more severe symptoms and even die in the worst cases.

Children who have the infection can cough persistently and stop breathing for one to two minutes.

It's recommended that children who have severe coughs are taken to a doctor right away to test for pertussis, then start antibiotic treatments if the bacteria is present.

Adults with the infection can also receive antibiotic treatments.

The health department recommends adults who spend time around children get a vaccine to protect against whooping cough.

Mike and Wendy Johnson did so in anticipation to the birth of their first grandchild in November. "I want as much baby time as I can get so I'm going to get my injection," Wendy Johnson said.

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Information from: KUTV-TV, http://www.kutv.com/