Entries in Pertussis (4)


Pertussis Outbreak May Be Worst in 50 Years, CDC Says

Hemera/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Reported cases of pertussis are at their highest level in 50 years, a top official with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  said Thursday, adding that outbreaks in several states should encourage all children and adults to get vaccinated.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said doctors across the nation have reported more than 18,000 cases of pertussis so far this year. That is more than twice as many cases as there were at this time in 2011 and the first time since 1959 that so many cases have been reported by this time in the year.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection involving the respiratory tract that is easily spread by coughing and sneezing. It can start out like the common cold, but can be a very serious infection, particularly for infants under the age of 1, who are too young to complete the full vaccination series.

While some doctors say that part of the surge in reported cases can be credited to better diagnostic tests and increased awareness, the casualties thus far underscore a very real problem. Nine infants have died from pertussis so far this year in the United States. The 13-to-14-year-old age group has been hit particularly hard. In Washington State, the number of cases this year has surpassed 3,000 -- already more than three times as many as all of last year. Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky declared a statewide pertussis epidemic on April 3.

The vaccine for pertussis, known as DTaP, should be given to all children as a series at ages 2, 4, and 6 months, 15-18 months, and 4-6 years, according to the CDC. An additional booster, known as TDaP, is needed at age 11-12.

"Unvaccinated kids are at eight times higher risk to getting pertussis compared to kids who have been vaccinated," said Schuchat. "Vaccinated kids who do develop pertussis have a milder course. They're also less infectious than unvaccinated children."

Health officials added that all adults who have not been vaccinated against pertussis should receive the TDaP vaccine, especially pregnant women and those who will have contact with babies. Pertussis outbreaks generally occur in peaks and waves. Even with vaccination, immunity tends to wane over time.

An estimated 84 percent of toddlers in the U.S. have received their complete course of vaccination. However, only eight percent of adults are currently vaccinated.

What's unusual is the fact that so many 13 and 14-year-olds are falling ill with the infection. The CDC is looking into whether this could be attributed to a change implemented in 1997 when the vaccine used to immunize children changed from a version that was taken off the market in the U.S. because of possible neurologic side effects.

The CDC is launching an investigation to find out what is contributing to the unusual features of this outbreak. Researchers are also looking at why the protection offered from the current vaccine is not complete.

Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic has had personal experience with pertussis, not only as a physician, but also as a father of a child who suffered through pertussis at the age of 13 despite being fully vaccinated.

"When I first heard my son cough, I knew he had pertussis," Poland said. "Even though I treated him immediately, the cough lasted for 100 days. He literally kept the family awake for months."

Dr. Len Horovitz, an infectious disease specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, is frustrated that despite the prevalence of media coverage, adults are not requesting the vaccine.

"How much relentless coverage and repetition of medical information [does it take] for the public to finally grasp an epidemic?" he asked. "People aren't listening, aren't watching or aren't paying attention."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Emergency Funds Released to Curb Whooping Cough

Office of Gov. Chris Gregoire(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is tapping into emergency funds to help contain a whooping cough epidemic spreading throughout the state. The $90,000 in crisis cash will be used to boost vaccination awareness.

“These actions will help state and local health leaders get vaccine into people’s arms so we can stem the tide,” Gregoire said Thursday in a statement.

Washington has seen more than 1,130 cases of whooping cough this year, up from 117 cases in the same stretch last year.

“I’ve been following the epidemic closely and the continued increase in cases has me very concerned about the health of our residents. I’m especially concerned about the vulnerable babies in our communities that are too young to be fully immunized,” Gregoire said.

Whooping cough is the unofficial moniker for pertussis, a contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable coughing interrupted by whooping gasps for air. The infection is preventable with the dTap vaccine, a series of five shots that boost immunity against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.

The first dose of dTap is given two months after birth, making infants particularly vulnerable to whooping cough from unvaccinated adults. About 75 percent of newborns who come down with whooping cough catch it from a family member, studies found.

“Pertussis is very serious, especially for babies. It’s vital that teens and adults are current on their immunizations because they’re often the ones who give whooping cough to babies,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement.

The state Department of Health has pledged an additional $210,000 to the vaccine awareness effort.

“In my 13 years as secretary, this is the first time I’ve had to use the word ‘epidemic’ about disease in our state,” Selecky said. “We’re headed for unprecedented numbers of cases. We’ve got to keep spreading the word to help prevent the spread of illness.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the redirection of federal funds designated for other immunizations to buy more than 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccine for adults who are uninsured or underinsured, Gregoire said.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Washington State Hit Hard by Whooping Cough

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(OLYMPIA, Wash.) -- Whooping cough is spreading throughout the country, and now the extremely contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing is hitting the state of Washington particularly hard.

Numbers released this week show that whooping cough cases have risen to 549 in 2012.  At this time last year, there were 88 pertussis cases in the state, said Tim Church, communications director of Washington’s Health department.  The annual number of cases will likely exceed the 950 yearly total that the state saw in 2011.

“We’re seeing a nasty streak in pertussis cases and we’re absolutely concerned about it,” Church told ABC News.

Church said kids need to be protected on both sides, and the health department is encouraging all parents and adults to make sure they’re up-to-date on their vaccinations.

“The vaccine we get as children typically wears off as an adult,” said Church.  “You’re no longer immune, and, if you do get whooping cough, the folks around you are in danger, as well.”

Doctors typically give whooping cough patients five days of antibiotics.  Health officials encourage the entire family of the patient to go on antibiotics, as well.  But more importantly, get vaccinated, they say.  The dTap vaccine, a shot that prevents diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, is readily available to the public.

Church said the health department is currently on a media blitz to make sure the public is aware of the rising pertussis cases.

“We are working on a radio PSA announcement and aggressively reaching out to media,” said Church. “We have had calls with local health departments to make sure we’re all on the same page and we’re providing additional information to health care providers and centers on the vaccine.”

While people of all ages can come down with whooping cough, even if they’ve been vaccinated, it’s particularly dangerous for newborns’ systems because they don’t have the immunity or vaccine to fight off the infection.  Studies show that about 75 percent of newborns that come down with whooping cough get it from a family member.  Of all deaths from pertussis between 2004 and 2008, 83 percent were children less than 3 months old.

Because of the high rate of whooping cough in infants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended that pregnant mothers get vaccinated with dTap.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Newborn Nearly Dies After Contracting Whooping Cough

Dr. Lisa Farkouh(DENVER) -- Leena was born a happy, healthy baby, but two weeks into her life, she developed a severe cough.  Doctors told her mother, Dr. Lisa Farkouh, that Leena only had a cold, but the symptoms continued and worsened.

After a battery of tests and a cough so severe that it would leave Leena unable to breathe, she was diagnosed with whooping cough -- an extremely contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing -- and pneumonia at 6 weeks old.  She was admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit.

"Death rates are so high in babies who get whooping cough because they have no immunity and they haven't started their vaccinations," said Farkouh, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver.  "She coughed for six months, but luckily she's now a healthy 2-year-old.  My concern is that other babies out there won't be as lucky."

Whooping cough is a highly contagious upper respiratory bacterial infection that causes violent and uncontrollable coughing.  The disease is easily spread from person to person when tiny droplets containing the bacteria move through the air.

Farkouh said she has racked her brain trying to figure out how Leena contracted whooping cough.  She said the baby was not exposed to unhealthy people who visited.  She assumes that someone in the community exposed Leena to it.

Dr. Anne Gershon, director of pediatric infectious disease at Columbia University Medical Center, confirmed Farkouh's belief that babies often come down with whooping cough, also called pertussis, through others in the community.

"These days, adults are getting pertussis and some doctors are unaware of this or don't think it is possible for an adult to have this infection," said Gershon. "Today, a lot of pertussis probably spreads from teenagers and adults who have lost immunity to this infection. We have also come to realize that having had pertussis once in the past does not necessarily mean that it won't occur again."

Farkouh, who has become an advocate for whooping cough vaccinations, said pertussis, the medical term for whooping cough, saw a 2,000 percent increase in the U.S. in 2010.

In response to the push for vaccinations, California and nearly a dozen other states recently passed laws that require parents to prove that their middle and high school aged children received a whooping cough vaccination.  The law was prompted by a whooping cough outbreak that killed 10 babies and sickened about 9,000 people in California last year.

Copyright 2011 ABC NEws Radio

ABC News Radio