Vermont Health Department

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The Vermont Health Department says the number of whooping cough cases in the state has dropped in half since a vaccination and public information campaign was launched in December.

Last year the state reported a record number of 645 cases of whooping cough, a number the state considered an epidemic.

Incidents of the flu appear to be rising in Vermont.

As of last week, about 20 percent of hospital visits were for respiratory illnesses and about 5 percent of visits to doctors' offices were for flu-like symptoms. Three adults have died so far, all of them in December.

The Vermont Health Department was dispensing free vaccines Wednesday at clinics around the state to prevent the spread of whooping cough,  which has reached epidemic numbers in Vermont.

AP Photo by Don Heupel

Vermont officials are trying to prevent any more highway fatalities this year by urging drivers to slow down, buckle up and not drive drunk or drug-impaired this holiday season.

Officials say Vermont has seen a spike in fatal crashes over last year — with 75 to date, compared to 51 last year.

Vermont health officials are urging adults to get a new vaccine for whooping cough as the state deals with an outbreak of the disease.

More than 500 people have been affected by whooping cough or pertussis this year. That's 10 times the amount reported by the end of 2011.

More than 20 babies younger than a year have had the disease and six infants have had to be hospitalized.

Vermont Health Department officials have rewritten rules designed to implement a new law on childhood immunizations, but some parents aren't satisfied with how those changes are being made.

An earlier draft of the rules said when parents want to exempt their child from vaccinations they need to sign a form implying they agree with the Health Department's assessment of the vaccines' risks and benefits. Parents who have expressed skepticism about vaccines say that's compelled speech, and that it violates the First Amendment.

The Vermont Health Department says efforts to control mosquitoes in Brandon and Whiting are working, but it doesn't eliminate the threat of Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

Earlier this month the state used aircraft to spray pesticides in Whiting and Brandon and the number of mosquitoes captured in traps in the area has been cut in half.

But Health Commissioner Dr. Harry Chen says that while the risk of EEE infection in Vermont has been reduced, there is no way to kill enough mosquitoes to eliminate the threat.

The Vermont Health Department says cases of whooping cough are increasing in the state.

The state says there have been 201 confirmed cases this year, with 68 of them reported from June 1 through Aug. 8. No deaths have been reported.

Three infants have been hospitalized with confirmed or probable whooping cough, also called pertussis, since June 1.

Vermont is roughly doubling — to about 170 — the number of chemicals it is banning as ingredients in so-called designer drugs.

That word came Thursday as dozens of state and federal law enforcement officials gathered at the Statehouse to strategize in a war on drugs that has expanded to substances called bath salts and spice.

Governor Peter Shumlin addressed the group and vowed the full support of his office as police around Vermont visit head shops and convenience stores where a wide range of the products are sold.