HOUSTON -

A health epidemic, affecting children, is spreading through Houston.

According to the latest figures, 141 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Houston this year. Of the 141, 69 percent were hospitalized and 73 percent were Hispanic.

Health officials in Houston are urging parents to make sure you and your child are vaccinated against whooping cough.

"It is a bully because it impacts the most vulnerable; the infants, the babies, they are the ones that end up in the hospital," said Porfirio Villarreal with the City of Houston Health Department.

Health officials say Pertussis is potentially deadly and very contagious. The cough of an infected child sounds like a whooping noise.

"Moms and siblings make up most people to pass on the illness to the young child," Villarreal said.

And because immunizations don't begin until a child is two months old it is very important that pregnant women and those around infants are vaccinated.

"The best thing is for moms to get vaccinated during their third trimester of pregnancy, then when the child is born at two, four, six, 15 months and then at four to six years. That way you protect the child," said Villarreal.

Health officials say whooping cough usually peaks every four to five years and we typically see the most cases in September and October, so that's another reason to get your child vaccinated now if you haven't already.

Two Pertussis deaths have been reported this year. Both were infants who were two young to be vaccinated.