Whooping Cough on the rise;
July 23, 2012
Alaska State Epidemiology reports that, like much of the country, Alaska is experiencing an increase in reported cases of pertussis due to the increase in the disease and increased identification of cases. However, the rate of the disease at the end of March 2012 was almost the same as last year; 14 cases reported in the state compared to 12 cases during the same time period in 2011. That trend is unlikely to continue.
“We have gotten a health advisory from the Alaska Public Health Network,” said Bev Crum, the manager of the Emergency Department at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center. “Washington State has seen a huge spike in their infection numbers and with so much travel between the states; we can expect a similar jump."
“Although most children are protected against pertussis by vaccination during childhood, immunity wanes over time, leaving adolescents and adults susceptible,” said Crum, “it is important for all adults to have current immunizations, especially those around infants, who are pregnant or in healthcare.”
A vaccination has been available since 2005 for adolescents and adults to protect against pertussis. Vaccinations are available locally in clinics for both adults and children. Children can also receive vaccinations at the public health clinic.
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that gets its name from a distinctive nagging cough or severe coughing spells. It can be spread very easily from person to person. It is spread by close contacts primarily through respiratory droplets or by direct contact. The infection begins with a 1–2 week onset stage characterized by a runny nose, sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough that gradually becomes more severe. The cough develops into a series of violent coughs which may lead to difficulty breathing or sleeping. This is often followed by spitting up clear, thick mucus or vomiting.
Pertussis can cause severe illness and death, primarily among infants less than 6 months old who are also at the highest risk for the disease. Nine babies have died from the disease this year in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC recommends pregnant women be vaccinated so their babies are born with some immunity.
Washington State has had 3,000 had cases of pertussis reported compared to 20 reported during the same time period last year according to Mary Selecky, secretary of the Washington State Department of Health. In April, Selecky officially declared Washington as experiencing a whooping cough epidemic. This is still in effect.
The CDC says 95 percent of toddlers aged up to three years have received at least three doses of the vaccine and 84 percent have had four. In 2010, 69 percent of 13- to 17-year olds got a fifth booster dose. Five doses are needed to be fully protected. Adults should have at least one dose of whooping cough vaccine but the CDC estimates that only slightly over 8 percent have done so.
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