RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina health officials say whooping cough vaccine is free in three counties where the infectious respiratory disease is spreading.
The state Department of Health and Human Services said Monday the number of cases in Davidson, Forsyth and Rockingham counties are high. Local health departments there are providing vaccine at no charge to anyone.
Public health officials have tracked more than 325 cases statewide of the disease also called pertussis. The entire state reported 126 cases in all of 2011.
Whooping cough is spread by coughing or sneezing. It's life-threatening in newborns and infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated. It can be serious at any age.
State law requires that kindergartners and all rising 6th graders be up to date on pertussis vaccination before going to school.