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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Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
A survey of parents has found that many teenagers are not receiving vaccine boosters that are readily available, proven safe, and important protectors against serious but preventable diseases. CNN.com reports:
“These vaccines are safe and effective and people should really have their teens get them,” says Dr. Paul Darden, lead author of the study and professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. “Parents say pediatricians are telling them about the vaccines, yet they just don’t seem to understand why they are necessary or are skeptical about their safety.”
When parents of teens were asked why their children didn’t receive certain forms of the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) and meningitis vaccine, some parents noted these shots were not recommended or not necessary, according to the study. Others did not have a reason.
Regarding the controversial and fairly new vaccine that protects against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus – which has been linked to cancer – some parents also said it was not necessary. In other cases parents noted their children were not sexually active or were not the appropriate age to receive the vaccine.
Concerns of mothers and fathers about the safety of the HPV vaccine grew each year, from 4.5% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2010, according to the study. The number of parents who said they would not vaccinate their children for HPV increased from 39.8% in 2008 to 43.9% in 2010. The main concern was safety.
Investigators were surprised, because the vaccine has been found to be very effective in preventing the virus that causes cervical cancer in young women.
“We thought perhaps many parents would think the HPV vaccine would give kids permission to have sex, and therefore not allow their children to get it. But that wasn’t it,” explained Darden. “They seemed to be skeptical of its safety, which is odd, because it’s shown to be effective with few side effects. We have a vaccine that protects against cancer. Why not vaccinate your child? I don’t get it.”
Image: Teen girl getting a shot, 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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