whooping cough, U.S. whooping cough outbreak, U.S. whooping cough epidemic

Whooping Cough Rates Rise in the US

December 18, 2008 07:33 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Incidence of the highly contagious respiratory disease, which used to kill thousands annually before a vaccine became available, has increased more than tenfold since 1980.

Kentucky, Indiana See Outbreaks

In Kentucky, there have been 122 confirmed cases of whooping cough this year, more than double from last year, while the state of Indiana has seen 100 confirmed cases as of Nov. 29, also double that reported last year. Officials point out that the numbers may actually be higher, as many cases of the disease go unreported.

“It’s normal for us to have a couple of cases,” said Wendy Keown, director of outreach services in the Hardin County health department in Kentucky, to the (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal. “We haven’t ever had an outbreak of this magnitude.”

Whooping cough, or pertussis, causes severe coughing fits accompanied by a high-pitched “whoop” noise upon inhalation. The disease is caused by a bacterial illness and is particularly dangerous to young children. It had been on the decline for decades, since children started being vaccinated in the 1940s and 1950s.

Cindy Hosking, the school nurse coordinator for Noblesville Schools in Noblesville, Ind., where 8 of the district’s 11 schools have been affected by whooping cough, says that the disease is sometimes hard to spot. “It’s a very difficult one to diagnose because it mimics your typical cold and upper respiratory infection that we see so much this time of year anyway,” said Hosking to the Indianapolis Star. She says it is easy to catch the disease if you are near someone who is coughing. “It’s direct respiratory droplets from person to person.”

The disease’s comeback is being blamed on decreasing immunity among children 10 and older who were vaccinated as young children, and some families’ refusal to vaccinate out of the fear that vaccines may cause autism in their children.

Doctors are now pushing mass vaccinations and booster shots to prevent further spread of the disease. But the Courier-Journal reports that some adults are still unaware that the vaccine exists, or that individuals need to receive booster shots so that the immunity does not wear off.

Adults who were vaccinated as children and are failing to get their immunizations updated are a particularly susceptible to ailments such as whooping cough and mumps. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 2 percent of adults update their shots. Health experts now say that recent outbreaks of diseases such as whooping cough and mumps are making comebacks because of this practice.

Background: Measles outbreak

Measles saw a resurgence in 2008 with 131 reported cases, or more than three times the cases reported in 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As with whooping cough, officials blame parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children, saying that half of the cases were children who were not ever vaccinated against the highly infectious disease.

In July, federal health officials said that the measles outbreak was the worst in 10 years, and that it had spread to 15 states. They blamed the epidemic on American citizens traveling abroad in 10 countries: Switzerland, Israel, Belgium, Italy, India, Germany, China, Pakistan, Russia and the Philippines. The last major outbreak of the disease took place in 1996 and affected 508 people.

Reference: Whooping cough


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