The report is published in the July 20 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication.
The outbreak in Washington state is only the tip of the iceberg, researchers stressed. Similar reports are coming in from all over the nation, according to the report.
Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said that "this is happening because the pertussis vaccine lasts only about 10 years."
"It looks like it was less effective than everybody thought it was," he added. "So, we have ended up with a reservoir of cases in high school and college students."
Schools, Siegel said, are a fertile breeding ground for bacteria such as pertussis. "This is a very easy bacteria to transmit," he explained.
In addition, doctors often fail to diagnose it because they aren't looking for it, Siegel said.
The solution to stopping the spread of pertussis is a revaccination campaign; people should probably get a booster shot every 10 years, Siegel said.
Although pertussis is usually not fatal in teens and adults, it can be deadly in young children and infants, Siegel noted.
For more information on whooping cough, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor, medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; July 19, 2012, news conference with: Anne Schuchat, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; July 20, 2012, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
All rights reserved