Whooping cough epidemic declared, could become concern in Utah

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California is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone.

The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between Jan. 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.

This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.

Whooping cough, known to doctors as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella pertussis.

The popular name for the disease comes from the whooping sound an infected person makes when gasping for breath after a coughing fit.

The bacteria spread through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to 10 days after exposure.

Infants and young children are more vulnerable to the disease than other age groups. It can be particularly dangerous for babies. About half of the infants who get whooping cough end up in a hospital. Some cases are fatal.

That’s why the public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they’re pregnant.

State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.

“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”

All adults should get a Tdap booster, unless you had one as a teenager (after age 11).

Nationally, more than 90% of children get the first three doses of the vaccine, but far fewer get the booster.

California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.

The current outbreak is too new for scientists to know if there is a similar pattern.

Whooping cough cases have spread rapidly in the United States this year, with a 24% increase nationally in the number of cases, compared to January through April of last year, according to the CDC.

Other states are reporting similar problems. The Mobile County Health Department in Alabama, for example, recently noted an “alarming” rise of cases locally, with 18 cases in May and June. That’s more than all the reported cases in Mobile for 2013, health officials say.

If you do catch whooping cough, you will typically be treated with antibiotics. Doctors often also treat all the family members in an infected person’s house to prevent transmission.

15 comments

  • safer midwifery utah

    I’ve written in-depth about how the utah midwifery community advises their patients NOT to get vaccines, and how they are a public health menace. Home birth is increasing in popularity so more families are listening to home birth midwives advice on vaccination. The state should stop endorsing these untrained quacks as health providers. I am sick and tired of seeing outbreaks of preventable diseases.

      • safer midwifery utah

        Letting them practice without a license and insurance is an endorsement. The direct entry midwifery practice act was passed specifically so midwives can operate without accountability to the state. It means anyone can declare themselves a midwife and start practicing. I mean, I know fox13 didn’t cover it but a midwife was arrested last week for allegedly delivering premature twins outside of the hospital and then interfering w/the ambulance when it showed up. She is anti-vaccine too.

      • safer midwifery utah

        good for you. did you ask their opinion or did it just not come up? I only learned my midwife was anti-vaccine because I asked her about the flu shot. Our experiences do not change that the dean of the midwives college of utah and other influential community members are anti-vaccination and publicly declare it on the internet.

    • Noelani

      In your research about this, did you ever find any actual evidence that outbreaks start with an unvaccinated child? Just being unvaccinated does not make the virus suddenly appear out of nowhere. I suspect what really starts it is an immunosupressed person being exposed to someone who has recently had the vaccine. If you have any other ideas about where it started, especially real evidence that it started with an unvaccinated child, I’d be happy to hear it.

      I’m not anti-vaccine. I’m anti making uneducated decisions! Parents need to know about both the potential benefits AND potential harm of vaccines! There ARE kids who become seriously ill, sometimes with serious, lifelong problems, and a few who die. My first child became serious ill with both the pertussis vaccine and the MMR. With the latter, I spent 36 hours looking at my previously happy, healthy, active baby lying, unresponsive, in a hospital crib, with no idea whether he would wake up, or whether the grand mal seizures had caused permanent damage. After ruling out a multitude of maladies, our pediatrician diagnosed it as encephalitis, due to the MMR vaccine. I had started out thinking that vaccines were safe, and also that they virtually guaranteed that the child could not get the disease associated with it. That isn’t true, either. Some have better records than others, but that is information that parents should learn about before allowing their children to be vaccinated.

      Another thing that reduces the incidence of disease in infants is breast milk. That information is often left out of discussions about ways to protect a child from disease, because people don’t want formula feeding mothers to feel bad. Shouldn’t mothers have such important information, when they are making decision about feeding their babies? Even partial breastfeeding, or feeding some expressed breast milk in a bottle, along with formula, passes on important antibodies from mother to child.

      This is one of many, many situations in which parents need to make a decision for their children. The more informed they are in making such decisions, the better!

      • safer midwifery utah

        Yes, I have read anti-vaccine arguments. No, they are not compelling. If you want simple proof talk to anyone who was actually alive when polio was epidemic. The only reason people like us have the privilege of questioning vaccines is because we are lucky enough to live in a world where their effectiveness blinds us to the alternative.

  • Cartman

    Visit any century-old cemetery and look at the ages on the headstones. That’s what happens when you don’t vaccinate your kids.

  • Roxie

    Safer MIdwifery – Preventable disease…. How do you suggest to prevent these if you don’t advocate vaccines? I’m just curious what you suggest to prevent these kind of diseases?

  • TrollBait

    It could be an outbreak in Utah. Non-story pretending to be a story. Could be an outbreak. Yet any idiot can be immunized essentially for free and not worry about it. I guess Natural Selection is still working amongst Homo sapiens.

    • Cartman

      Yes, all you have to do is survive the disease. It works for polio, smallpox, etc. Live through it and you’re immune.

      Of course, there is no cure for stupid.

  • kristin

    To those who seriously doubt vaccinations….Apparently, history wasn’t your favorite subject in school. ( If you attended.) People used to die from polio, and measles by the hundreds, and even thousands!! Its a fact! This is WHY we created vaccines!!! If you wanted to take your chances you should have lived a hundred years ago. But you DIDNT…you live NOW, where your kids don’t have to get sick and die. How hard is it??? Its a damned shot. it takes 3 seconds. I cant believe people argue about this. Its that simple. Do you want your kid to be safe from these infections? Or do you want them to be extremely sick and possibly die because you find it fun to argue?? Sounds like a no brainer. ;) Is this about your child, or your need to feel intelligent by arguing???

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