BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Students ages 11 and older entering the sixth grade in Alabama schools this fall will have to get vaccinated against pertussis.
The Alabama Department of Public Health says there is alarming increase in the infection, which affects the lungs and spreads through coughing and sneezing.
The illness is highly contagious.
There were 69 cases of pertussis in Alabama during the first six months of the year. Last year, there were 133 cases, and in 2010, there were 205 cases.
Seventh- and eighth-graders who did not receive the vaccination during the last school year must also get it.
A person with pertussis develops a severe cough that usually lasts for to six weeks, and could last longer.