An outbreak of whooping cough in southern Manitoba is partly linked to infants who haven't been vaccinated, according to Southern Health-Santé Sud health region.

"We've seen a pretty significant increase across our region that seems to be ongoing," said Michael Routledge, the chief medical officer of the health region.

From about 2009 to 2014, there would be about 15 cases of whooping cough each year in the health region. But last December alone there were 10.

"Even in the last couple weeks we've had a few more," Routledge said.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection most commonly spread through coughing or sneezing. It can be serious for babies or people with weakened immune systems and in some cases can lead to complications such as pneumonia, seizures and death.   

The southern health region saw more than 50 cases in 2015 and about 40 cases last year.

There is a vaccine but Routledge said the latest outbreak has largely impacted infants who haven't been vaccinated.

"Mostly our immunization rates are pretty good but some people, for various reasons, don't get immunized. Sometimes because they chose not to, sometimes because they don't know it's available," he said.  

"This is a safe vaccine and I certainly would recommend it to everybody."

Earlier in 2016 the cases appeared in Morden and Winkler, but the recent cluster is near Steinbach.

Routledge said if people have questions or concerns about the vaccine or are having symptoms they should take to their health care provider.

"We are concerned [about] this prolonged outbreak now that's happening in Southern [Health]," he said.