Health officials are calling on parents to get immunized after an outbreak of whooping cough in Huron County.

There have been more than 200 reported cases since May. Almost all of them come from a Mennonite community and health officials say they were not vaccinated.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a contagious infection of the lungs and airways. Mucus builds up in the throat and chest causing serious coughing fits. Those that have it often make a “whoop” noise as they try to catch their next breath.

“There’s gasping for air,” says Janice Owen, the Medical Officer of Health for Huron County. “People can turn blue if they don’t get enough air and that’s when it gets pretty scary.”

Without treatment, whooping cough can last for weeks or months. It can cause serious brain and lung damage, or in the case of infants, death.

There has also been an increase of whooping cough in Huron County.

Waterloo Region has only had 15 reported cases this year and in Wellington Dufferin Guelph, only three reported cases.

Children are given five doses of the whooping cough vaccine. As protection fades over time, adults are advised to get a booster shot.

“We realize now that adults can still get whooping cough,” says Owen. “They may not get sick as kids but they definitely can expose little [children] who are most at risk.”