Whooping cough: State frees emergency money

by Symptom Advice on May 17, 2012

Originally published May 3, 2012 at 2:35 PM | Page modified May 3, 2012 at 10:24 PM


Getting vaccinated and when

To guard against whooping cough, health officials recommend this vaccination schedule. The shots offer protection against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus.

Children age 6 and under should have five shots, including four in their first 18 months. The fifth shot of DTaP should be given between ages 4 and 6.

Children ages 11 or 12 are recommended for a booster shot known as Tdap that has been available since 2007. Whooping-cough vaccine is required for entry to child care and school. State law allows certain exemptions; however, unvaccinated children may be asked to stay home during an outbreak.

Teens and adults should get another Tdap booster to provide protection against whooping cough for years. Officials say the booster is especially important for pregnant women. Check with your health-care provider to determine if you are current on vaccinations.

Source: state Department of Health

Whooping-cough symptoms

Whooping cough can feel like a common cold for teens and adults but can be life-threatening for a younger child.

The infection has three basic stages, and the first 21 days are the most contagious:

1. The first two weeks, it will look like the common cold. Usually those infected notice an occasional cough.

2. Fits of coughing begin, followed by a distinct “whooping” sound, a phase that lasts about six weeks.

3. Recovery starts as the cough begins to die out.

If you have these symptoms, talk with your doctor.

Source: state Department of Health

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire opened an emergency fund Thursday to help contain a spreading whooping-cough epidemic, and officials urged residents to get vaccinated against an illness that particularly threatens infants.

Gregoire is making $90,000 in crisis cash available to help strengthen a public-awareness campaign about the need for the pertussis vaccination. The state Department of Health is already looking to spend about $200,000 on the effort.

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

The state has also received approval from the federal government to divert some federal cash toward the purchase of 27,000 doses of the whooping-cough vaccine. Those will be available for the uninsured.

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. Infants are particularly vulnerable to whooping cough because they can’t be immunized before 4 to 6 weeks.

So far this year, 20 children under the age of 1 have been hospitalized for whooping cough, according to state data. Last year, two babies in Washington died from the illness.

Babies often get the illness from adults and family members because the shots children get wear off over time. Officials want residents to get a whooping-cough booster, called a Tdap.

Washington has already recorded 1,132 cases of whooping cough this year — about 10 times more than the same time last year, according to disease investigators at the Department of Health. The state is recording more than 400 cases of pertussis each month — four times more than the threshold that state officials consider “epidemic” levels — and Washington is on pace for as many as 3,000 cases in 2012.

Those are numbers that haven’t been seen in decades.

“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.

Health officials say only about 10 percent of cases are typically reported, so the number tabulated by state officials shows only a fraction of the total cases statewide. Skagit County is somewhat of an epicenter this year, with more than 200 cases. That’s a rate about three times higher than in the next nearest county — Jefferson.

The public-awareness campaign will include a radio ad airing statewide, as well as public-service announcements, said health-department spokesman Tim Church. Officials also plan advertisements on Facebook and Google, and they are exploring bus and billboard ads.

On Friday, Selecky and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., plan to ask the CDC to send investigators and epidemiologists to help the state study and contain the epidemic. such a study would help state health officials with their response and identify why the epidemic is growing so quickly, according to Cantwell’s office.

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