State distributes more vaccine for whooping cough

July 17, 2012

Statewide, health officials recorded more than 2,000 whooping cough cases since the secretary of health declared a pertussis epidemic April 3.

The epidemic is up to 2,883 reported cases and remains active. Officials urge vaccinations and other prevention measures to stop the spread of pertussis. The vaccine against the disease is called Tdap.

“Infants are most at risk for very serious illness from whooping cough, and many are made sick by an adult who didn’t know they were carrying the illness,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health office, said in a statement. “All teens and adults should get the Tdap shot. Even people who don’t have close contact with babies can spread the illness to babies when they’re in public.”

The state Department of Health ordered 14,000 more doses of whooping cough vaccine for uninsured adults to go with 27,000 doses already sent to local health and tribal partners.

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

State distributes more vaccine as whooping cough epidemic continues

July 13, 2012

NEW — 9 a.m. July 13, 2012

Statewide, health officials recorded more than 2,000 whooping cough cases since the secretary of health declared a pertussis epidemic April 3.

The epidemic is up to 2,883 reported cases and remains active. Officials urge vaccinations and other prevention measures to stop the spread of pertussis. The vaccine against the disease is called Tdap.

“Infants are most at risk for very serious illness from whooping cough, and many are made sick by an adult who didn’t know they were carrying the illness,” Dr. Maxine Hayes, state health office, said in a statement. “All teens and adults should get the Tdap shot. Even people who don’t have close contact with babies can spread the illness to babies when they’re in public.”

The state Department of Health ordered 14,000 more doses of whooping cough vaccine for uninsured adults to go with 27,000 doses already sent to local health and tribal partners.

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Summer haze can impact air quality, raise health risks

July 12, 2012

NEW — 10 a.m. July 12, 2012

Summer in Western Washington means a respite from the rain, but the season also brings wildfires and increased ozone levels. The result is diminished air quality and increased health risks for people battling heart and lung diseases.

Different factors contribute to summer air pollution. Several consecutive days of sunny, hot weather increase ozone. Wildfires produce smoky air containing fine particles and toxic chemicals. Vehicle exhaust also contributes to air quality issues.

People can lower exposure to air pollution by checking air quality conditions before participating in outdoor activities. State health officials recommended for people — especially seniors and others at increased risk — to limit outdoor activity and choose less strenuous things to do, such as going for a walk instead of a run, if air pollution is high.

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Law causes vaccination exemptions to drop

July 10, 2012

The statewide rate of exemptions from vaccines required for school dropped significantly in the year since a law changed the parental opt-out process.

Kindergarten exemption rates for required immunizations dropped to 4.5 percent for the 2011-12 school year compared to 6 percent in 2010-11 and 6.2 percent in 2009-10.

Under the law, exemption-seeking parents must get information from a health care provider about the benefits and risks of a vaccine before the provider signs the exemption form.

Children with exemptions tend to live in the same areas and attend the same schools. The concentration of un- and under-vaccinated children increases the risk of outbreaks.

In the Issaquah School District, 4 percent to 4.9 percent of all students had exemptions for the 2010-11 school year. For kindergartens in the district during the same period, state data indicated 5 percent to 9.9 percent had exemptions. (The district serves about 17,000 students.)

The state Childhood Vaccine Program provides all recommended vaccines for Washington children under age 19 at no cost. Physicians may charge a fee for the office visit, but patients can ask for the fee to be waived.

Report dead birds to help the state track West Nile virus

July 3, 2012

The impending arrival of summer also marks the start of mosquito season — and increased risk of West Nile virus.

State Department of Health officials asked citizens to report dead birds online in order to help track the virus. The location and testing of dead birds — especially crows, ravens, jays, magpies and hawks — is a way to track the West Nile virus.

Citizens can report dead birds at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/ts/Zoo/WNV/reportdeadbird.html. Officials encourage dead bird monitoring from May through November.

Mosquitoes spread West Nile virus after the insects feed on infected birds. The disease can sicken humans, horses, and many types of birds and other animals.

Most people do not feel the effects of infection, but in others, West Nile disease can cause severe symptoms, including brain and spinal cord diseases.

Statewide, health officials collected five positive mosquito samples in 2011 — down from 126 positive samples in 2010. Officials did not detect any bird, horse or human cases last year.

West Nile virus in Washington reached a high in 2009, as health officials documented 38 human cases, including one fatality.

Mason, Sophia rank as most popular baby names in Washington

June 26, 2012

Mason and Sophia ranked as the most-popular baby names in Washington last year — a reflection of popular baby names nationwide.

The data comes from the U.S. Social Security Administration’s annual ranking of baby names in the United States. In Washington, parents named 444 infant boys Mason and 440 infant girls Sophia.

The agency released the data May 14.

Liam ranked No. 2 on the list of names for boys. Olivia filled the slot on the list of names for girls. Alexander and Emma came in at No. 3.

Jacob, No. 4 on the list of top names for boys, rose in recent years due to a character in the mega-popular “Twilight” saga. Isabella ranked as the No. 4 name for girls.

Ethan and Emily nabbed the No. 5 slots.

Jacob, Mason, William, Jayden and Noah filled the top slots nationwide among names for boys. Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia and Ava topped the list of names for girls.

State: More adults get whooping cough vaccine

June 12, 2012

The ongoing whooping cough epidemic in Washington is driving increased demand for the vaccine among adults, state health officials reported June 5.

Between March 25 and May 26, the state immunization registry recorded 82,453 doses of Tdap, as the whooping cough vaccine is called, for adults age 19 and older — more than double the 34,171 doses recorded in the same time period last year.

Data from health plans also shows the uptick. Group Health gave almost 60 percent more Tdap to adults in April 2012 compared to April 2011. Premera Blue Cross is experiencing a similar trend. Tdap vaccinations in April 2012 rose by more than 70 percent for members compared to the average month.

The number of reported whooping cough, or pertussis, cases in Washington is 2,092 — the highest since the 1940s.

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

State: More adults get whooping cough vaccine amid epidemic

June 6, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. June 6, 2012

The ongoing whooping cough epidemic in Washington is driving increased demand for the vaccine among adults, state health officials reported Tuesday.

Between March 25 and May 26, the state immunization registry recorded 82,453 doses of Tdap, as the whooping cough vaccine is called, for adults age 19 and older — more than double the 34,171 doses recorded in the same time period last year.

Data from health plans also shows the uptick. Group Health gave almost 60 percent more Tdap to adults in April 2012 compared to April 2011. Premera Blue Cross is experiencing a similar trend. Tdap vaccinations in April 2012 rose by more than 70 percent for members compared to the average month.

“Adults in Washington are doing their part by getting the whooping cough booster, called Tdap,” state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a statement. “The increase in adult vaccination is vital to protecting babies who are the most vulnerable because they’re too young to be fully vaccinated. Thank you to everyone who’s gotten vaccinated, and I want others to follow their example.”

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Mason, Sophia rank as most popular baby names in Washington

June 1, 2012

NEW — 6 a.m. June 1, 2012

Mason and Sophia ranked as the most-popular baby names in Washington last year — a reflection of popular baby names nationwide.

The data comes from the U.S. Social Security Administration’s annual ranking of baby names in the United States. In Washington, parents named 444 infant boys Mason and 440 infant girls Sophia.

Liam ranked No. 2 on the list of names for boys. Olivia filled the slot on the list of names for girls. Alexander and Emma came in at No. 3.

Jacob, No. 4 on the list of top names for boys, rose in recent years due to a character in the mega-popular “Twilight” saga.

Isabella ranked as the No. 4 name for girls.

Ethan and Emily nabbed the No. 5 slots.

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State urges vaccinations amid whooping cough epidemic

April 10, 2012

State health officials said whooping cough cases have reached epidemic proportions throughout Washington, and they urged residents April 3 to get vaccinated against the highly contagious disease.

The state Department of Health 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 year.

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