MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Six-year-old Marisa Peck is one of 50 cases of whooping cough reported in Hennepin County so far this year. That puts the county on close to a record pace. Now, health officials are warning parents to keep an eye out for whooping cough.

“I was coughing a lot at night and one night I needed to come out of bed and have a cough drop and just walk around,” said Peck.

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That’s her take on the cough. Her mom, Paula Engelking, tells it a little differently.

“The coughing was horrible. I mean, just horrible. We went to the doctor. Nobody thought it was this. They just thought it was something going around like a cold,” said Engelking.

Tests showed Peck had whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis. Peck was put on antibiotics and has had to stay home from school for five days to make sure she isn’t contagious. The medicine doesn’t help the cough get better, but it keeps it from spreading.

“We ended up sending letters to the girl scouts and another one to the boy scouts. And I’ve been racking my brain. Anyone my kids have been around in the last month, I’ve tried to call,” said Engelking.

Hennepin County is on pace to have more than 200 cases of whooping cough this year, which is far more than the 86 reported last year.

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“Hennepin County, this may be their year to kind of be a big county for pertussis,” said Kris Ehresmann of the Department of Health.

The Department of Health recommends that kids get five doses of the vaccine by the time they are six, but it isn’t 100 percent effective. It also has waning immunity, meaning kids need a booster called “Tdap” when they are 11 or 12 years old. Because whooping cough can be life-threatening to babies, it’s recommended that parents get a booster, too.

“The reason it is a concern is because we have infants that are born each year who are vulnerable. And we want to get this under control so that we don’t see transmission to the most vulnerable populations,” said Ehresmann.

Whooping cough is also known as the “100-Day Cough” and doctors say it can last that long.

The first symptoms are similar to a cold, but after a couple weeks it becomes a severe cough, when coughing spells go on without a break. Some children make a high-pitch “whooping” sound when breathing-in after a cough attack.

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If your child has any of these symptoms, experts recommend that they see a doctor.

John Lauritsen