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Whooping Cough Epidemic 2012

Updated on July 10, 2012
Whooping Cough Photo
Whooping Cough Photo

Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious disease caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacteria. Pertussis is one of the most common occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. Pertussis can be serious, especially in infants too young to be vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends pertussis vaccinations for children, teens and adults (including pregnant women).

Washington State Whooping Cough Epidemic

Washington State has recently seen a spike in whooping cough cases. The CDC reports that there were 1, 484 documented cases of whooping cough statewide through May 12, 2012, compared to just 134 during the same time frame in 2011. The Washington State Department of Health reports an even higher number (currently at 2,092) and has labeled it a pertussis epidemic.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough

Pertussis starts out like an ordinary cold. Sneezing, runny nose, congestion and mild coughing are common. Sometimes mild fever may be present. After one or two weeks, a severe cough presents itself. Pertussis can cause violent, rapid coughing that continues until the air is gone from the lungs, causing tthose affected to inhale with a loud whooping sound.

Who Gets Pertussis?

Anyone can get whooping cough because it’s an airborne disease. The disease is spread when infected people cough or sneeze while in close contact with others. Many people don’t even realize they have whooping cough and unknowingly spread the disease to family members, friends and coworkers.

Pertussis is most dangerous to infants. More than half of all infants under the age of 1, who get the disease, will need to be hospitalized and 1 in 5 end up with pneumonia.

Why the Resurgence in Whooping Cough?

The pertussis vaccine lasts only six to 10 years. Outbreaks cycle every three to five years and then reduce again, but the possibility of contracting whooping cough never really goes away. In order for the vaccine to be truly effective at least 92 to 94 percent of the population needs to be immunized and that simply doesn’t happen. That’s why the CDC recommends that older children and adults should be vaccinated.

Improperly Stored Vaccines

One final word on a disturbing study that was released just this month. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the Department of Health and Human Services reported that both expired and unexpired vaccines were being stored together in some doctor’s offices and clinics. This can potentially lead to human error and result in medical personnel giving patients the wrong version of the drug. They also found some vaccines were being stored at above or below required temperatures, leading to the possibility of rendering medicines ineffective. This has lead some critics to question if this could possibly be the reason why certain diseases (including pertussis) are on the rise. The CDC has agreed to work directly with clinics and states to make sure medicines are being better managed.

Improper storage should be troubling to parents who rely heavily on free immunization clinics that store large amounts of vaccines. It should also be a cause for concern to tax payers as the improperly stored vaccines totaled nearly $370,000. The Vaccines for Children Program spent $3.6 billion in 2010 to give 82 million vaccines to some 40 million children. One has to wonder why restaurant food storage is more government regulated than vaccine medications given to our children.

The CDC has some valuable information and recommendations regarding pertussis vaccinations on their website.

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    • lovesleftovers profile image

      lovesleftovers 5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks Randy! You're right, whooping cough cases are on the rise again and it's important for the public to remain informed. Thanks again for your comment and vote :)

    • Randy M. profile image

      Randy McLaughlin 5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      With the apparent resurgence of cases in Whooping Cough, this is a timely article. Voted up!