Manitoba health officials are advising adults, especially those who are in regular contact with children, to get vaccinated against whooping cough.

Whooping cough rates are on the rise across Canada, due in part to an upswing in the disease cycle and less potent vaccines.

Dr. Richard Rusk, the province's medical officer of health for infectious diseases, says the best way to curb the spread of whooping cough is by getting adults vaccinated and therefore "improving the overall community level of immunity."

"At the end of the day, it is spread by teenagers and adults, and it's the little babies that are at risk," Rusk said Thursday.

New Brunswick health officials put out a similar advisory two days ago.

The bacterial infection, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that can turn into severe coughing, choking and vomiting.

It spreads through coughs and sneezes or by sharing food and drink. The infection can last for weeks or months, and can cause brain damage or even death, particularly for young children.

13 confirmed cases in Manitoba

Symptoms initially resemble a mild cold, progressing to severe bouts of coughing that can last for weeks. Whooping cough most commonly affects infants and young children.

So far this year, Manitoba has had 13 laboratory-confirmed cases of whooping cough and one infant death from the disease.

Vaccinations are available free of charge to adults, including primary caregivers of infants less than two months of age. Children that young are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.

"This is one of the diseases where we know the vaccine is safe, and yet our levels are not where we want them to be. And so we are encouraging everyone to try and vaccinate," Rusk said.

Over the past 10 years, Manitoba has averaged 37 cases of whooping cough annually, ranging from a high of 83 in 2004 to a low of 12 in 2006.

Child-care association supports advisory

The Manitoba Child Care Association is urging its members to get vaccinated for whooping cough as a precautionary measure.

"It's a good idea if the province has reason to be concerned that there is an outbreak," said Pat Wege, the association's executive director.

"Adults may not have had a booster, and so this is good information for them, and I hope that they take the advisory seriously and get their update."

Proper cough and handwashing etiquette is an important way to prevent the spread of infection.

This includes covering your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your upper sleeve, when you cough or sneeze, the province stated in a news release.

Put used tissues in waste baskets, wash hands with soap and water, or clean them with an alcohol-based hand rub.

Anyone who has experienced mild cold symptoms that have progressed to a severe cough after seven to 14 days, along with persistent bouts of coughing that have a "whoop" sound, are encouraged to see their primary care provider, the province says.