A federal advisory panel recently voted encouraging all adults to get the whooping cough vaccine and emphasizes proper hygiene practices to fight transmission.

In 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 28,000 cases of whooping cough, which resulted in 27 deaths. And although the CDC has not released 2011 numbers, cases of whooping cough have increased substantially in recent months. The statistics are cause for concern.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that in rare cases can be fatal. It leads to severe coughing that causes a distinctive whooping sound as one gasps for breath.

People with pertussis usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria, say CDC reports. To reduce its spread, encourage proper hygiene, including covering coughs and sneezes, and adhering to proper handwashing and sanitizing.

Click here for more information from the CDC.