Whooping cough epidemic in Wash. worries Oregon

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PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) -- Public health officials in Oregon are so worried about the whooping cough epidemic in neighboring Washington state that some nurses are giving out free vaccinations in shopping center parking lots.

The East Oregonian newspaper reports (http://bit.ly/I6Sl7Y ) that Oregon has 120 reported cases of whooping cough since January, most in Multnomah and Washington counties. Oregon had four pertussis-related deaths since 2007, all infants.

Washington has 897 reported cases so far this year, and those high numbers are worrying public health officials in Umatilla County. The county is offering free vaccination clinics next month in Pendleton and Hermiston.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. Health officials say people can protect themselves by getting vaccinated.