updated 6/30/2005 7:08:06 PM ET 2005-06-30T23:08:06

Confronted with a surge in whooping cough among teenagers and adults, a government advisory panel recommended Thursday that young people get a booster shot against the disease between the ages of 11 and 18.

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Currently, youngsters get a series of whooping cough vaccinations through age 6. But the protection wears off as they get older.

As a result, the number of cases among U.S. adults 20 and older nearly doubled to 5,365 in 2004 from the year before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A panel that advises the CDC on immunization practices endorsed adding whooping cough vaccine to the tetanus and diphtheria booster shot children routinely get after age 11.

Over the past two months, the FDA has approved two whooping cough booster vaccines for adolescents and beyond, Boostrix and Adacel.

Whooping cough, a highly contagious disease also known as pertussis, can be fatal to young children, causing coughing so severe that it can crack ribs. Vaccinations have dramatically reduced its incidence among babies and toddlers.

But now roughly 40 percent of all cases affect adolescents, and 20 percent affect adults, said Dr. David Neumann, executive director of the National Partnership for Immunization.

“It’s become a different type of public health issue than it was in the ’40s and ’50s,” he said. “The new vaccine will help.”

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