12/02/2012 11:35 EST | Updated 02/01/2013 05:12 EST

Whooping cough outbreak hits Alaska

There is an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, in Alaska.

The state routinely gets about of 40 cases a year. But this year, there have already been 220 confirmed cases.

"We are having a large outbreak, certainly the largest in at least four years in Alaska and likely the largest one in a much longer time," said Brian Yablon, who is with the Alaska Department of Health.

The majority of the cases have come from the Anchorage/Mat-Su and Interior regions.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection which causes uncontrolled coughing. It can cause life threatening complications in infants and young children.

Protection against pertussis is part of a child's routine immunization. Other ways to prevent against the infection include washing your hands, covering your cough with a sleeve or tissue, or staying home when sick.