Monday, June 16th, 2014
California’s public health officials have declared an epidemic of whooping cough, the bacterial respiratory infection also called pertussis, in light of a staggering 800 cases of the disease reported in the state over the past two weeks alone. More from CNN:
The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 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 spreads 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).
The CDC declared 2012 to be the worst year for whooping cough in a half century, blaming inconsistent vaccinations and boosters for at least part of the outbreak.
Find out if your child is too sick for school and shop thermometers.
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
The vaccine against pertussis, which is commonly known as whooping cough, has been perplexing researchers who are observing that it’s less effective than anticipated at halting the spread of the disease. 2012 was the worst whooping cough outbreak in 50 years, and the continued presence of the disease is troubling, especially as many families choose not to have their children vaccinated–or to get Tdap booster shots themselves.
A new study by the Food and Drug Administration may be onto the reason why even in communities with high vaccination rates, whooping cough can appear and spread. More from NBC News:
The research suggests that while the vaccine may keep people from getting sick, it doesn’t prevent them from spreading whooping cough — also known as pertussis — to others.
“It could explain the increase in pertussis that we’re seeing in the U.S.,” said one of the researchers, Tod Merkel of the Food and Drug Administration.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that can strike people of any age but is most dangerous to children. It was once common, causing hundreds of thousands of illnesses annually and thousands of deaths. But after a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, cases dropped to fewer than 5,000 a year.
The vaccine was replaced in the 1990s because of side effects that included pain and swelling from the shot and fever. The newer vaccine is part of routine childhood vaccinations as well as adult booster shots.
But cases have rebounded. Last year was the nation’s worst year for whooping cough in six decades — U.S. health officials received reports of more than 48,000 cases, including 18 deaths.
This year hasn’t been half as bad — about 20,000 reported illnesses, including six deaths so far. Whooping cough ebbs and flows in cycles, so experts aren’t surprised to see cases recede. But 20,000 can still be seen as a lot when a widely used vaccine is supposed to protect the public.
Image: Child coughing, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 6th, 2013
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is on track to sicken more people in Texas than have been affected in the past 50 years, prompting health officials in the state to urge that parents vaccinate their children–and make sure their own vaccines are up to date. More from CNN:
The threat grows when one considers that scientists estimate 10 cases of pertussis, popularly known as whooping cough, occur for every one that is reported, she said in a telephone interview, adding, “We’re clearly having an epidemic.”
So far this year, Texas has tallied nearly 2,000 cases, two of them fatal, and the total is expected to exceed the 3,358 recorded in 2009, when the last such outbreak occurred, the Department of State Health Services said.
There does not appear to be any single explanation for the spike, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the department. “It really looks like several things working together,” he said in a telephone interview, noting that outbreaks tend to occur in cycles. “We see a peak and a lot of people will be exposed and develop natural immunity,” leading to fewer cases, he said. “Then it wears off and it (the number of cases) will go up again.”
The numbers are a little squishy in the outbreak, in which cases have not been focused on any one area, he said. Awareness has increased and diagnostic tests have improved in recent years, meaning doctors may be identifying more cases than they used to, he said.
But there is no debate about the seriousness of the disease. As many as two in 100 adolescents and five in 100 adults with pertussis are hospitalized or have complications, including pneumonia and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The federal health agency recommends that women get the vaccine during each pregnancy, ideally between the 27th and 36th week — since an estimated 30% to 40% of babies who contract whooping cough get it from their mothers — and that their children undergo a series of five pertussis vaccinations beginning at 2 months of age.
That first shot is to be followed by injections at 4 months and 6 months, and boosters at 15 to 18 months and again at 4 to 6 years of age so that children’s immunity will be robust during the first months of life, when they are most vulnerable. Both of the Texas fatalities were younger than 2 months.
“We want to make sure that they are getting the immunizations on that schedule so that the waning immunity won’t be as much of an issue,” Van Deusen said.
Image: Child receiving vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 24th, 2013
Nearly half of U.S. children receive recommended vaccines on a delayed schedule, a new report conducted by Kaiser Permanente has found. Further, researchers say that the rising number of children who skip the vaccines altogether could reintroduce some long-eliminated diseases back into the mainstream. More from Reuters:
“What we’re worried about is if (undervaccination) becomes more and more common, is it possible this places children at an increased risk of vaccine-preventable diseases?” said study leader Jason Glanz, with Kaiser Permanente Colorado in Denver.
“It’s possible that some of these diseases that we worked so hard to eliminate (could) come back.”
Glanz and his colleagues analyzed data from eight managed care organizations, including immunization records for about 323,000 children.
During the study period, the number of children who were late on at least one vaccine – including their measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) shots – rose from 42 percent to more than 54 percent.
Babies born towards the end of the study were late on their vaccines for more days, on average, than those born earlier.
“When that happens, it can create this critical mass of susceptible individuals,” said Saad Omer, from the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta, who wasn’t involved in the new study.
Just over one in eight children went undervaccinated due to parents’ choices. For the rest, it wasn’t clear why they were late getting their shots. Some could have bounced in and out of insurance coverage, Glanz suggested, or were sick during their well-child visits, so doctors postponed vaccines.
The report comes on the heels of new data from the Institute of Medicine saying that the recommended infant vaccine schedule is safe for children.
Image: Baby vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 26th, 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that pregnant women receive a Tdap vaccine, which protects against both tetanus and pertussis, or whooping cough. The recommendations, which come from the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, state that women should receive a new Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, regardless of their prior immunization history.
In 2011, the committee had recommended that pregnant women who had never received a Tdap vaccine be immunized.
The U.S. remains on track to have the most reported pertussis cases since 1959, with more than 32,000 cases already reported along with 16 deaths, the majority of which are in infants, the CDC said in a statement.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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