Department of Health urges vaccinations as whooping cough reaches epidemic proportions

April 3, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 8 p.m. April 3, 2012

State health officials said whooping cough cases reached epidemic proportions throughout Washington, and urged residents Tuesday to get vaccinated against the highly contagious disease.

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said officials recorded 640 cases in 23 counties through March 31 — the highest number of reported cases in decades. King County experienced 88 cases through March 31. Officials recorded 94 whooping cough, or pertussis, cases statewide during the same period last last year.

Pertussis is highly contagious and spreads easily from person to person through coughing and sneezing. The disease is most serious infants, especially children too young to receive the vaccination. Pertussis causes cold-like systems followed by a long, severe cough.

The pertussis vaccine, Tdap, is recommended for all children and adults.

“We’re very concerned about the continued rapid increase in reported cases,” Selecky said in a statement. “This disease can be very serious for young babies, who often get whooping cough from adults and other family members. We want all teens and adults who haven’t had Tdap to be vaccinated to help protect babies that are too young for the vaccine.”

Most people receive a series of pertussis vaccines as children, but the protection wears off over time.

State health officials recommend for people 11 and older to get a pertussis booster. The vaccination is especially important for people in close contact with infants younger than 12 months.

“Many adults don’t realize they need to be vaccinated, or they assume they have been,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health officer, said in a statement. “We’re asking everyone to verify with their health care provider that they’re up-to-date on vaccines. We’re also asking everyone to use good health manners — like cover your cough and stay home when you’re sick — that will also help prevent spreading whooping cough.”

The vaccine is offered at no cost to all children younger than 19 through health care provider offices participating in the state Childhood Vaccine Program, though health care providers might charge fees to administer the vaccine and for the office visit. Most health insurance carriers cover the whooping cough vaccine.

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