U.S. Whooping Cough Cases Could Be Worst in More than 50 Years

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Pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, is making a major comeback across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Thursday. Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported nationwide to the CDC in 2012, more than twice as many as were reported at this time last year. That puts the country on track for the most cases in more than 50 years.

“We may need to go back to 1959 to to find a year with this many cases reported,” said the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat in a conference call.

Some areas of the country have been hit harder than others, such as Washington state, which declared a whooping cough epidemic in April. More than 3,000 cases have been reported in the state so far, compared with 20 reported by the same time last year, said Mary Selecky, secretary of the Washington State Department of Health. “For every case that we know about, we suspect that there are many people out there who have pertussis and don’t know it,” she said.

(MORE: Whooping Cough Cases May Break Record in California)

“What’s happening in Washington state is a reflection of the larger national picture of this very difficult to control disease,” said Schuchat.

The highest rates of infection are being seen in babies less than 12 months old; half of all cases are in those under 3 months old. That’s not surprising, since these infants are too young to be vaccinated. They are protected by mothers’ vaccination in pregnancy and the vaccination of other adults and children who come into contact with them — but vaccination rates aren’t as high as they should be.

The CDC notes also that pertussis rates are high in young kids and teens, aged 10 to 14. Health officials think the spike is due largely to the waning protection of pertussis vaccinations received earlier in childhood. The U.S. used to use a childhood pertussis vaccine known as DTwP that contained killed B. pertussis bacteria cells. But in 1997, in response to fears that the vaccine was linked with rare neurological problems (the connection has not been shown scientifically), manufacturers switched to a so-called acellular vaccine (DTaP) that uses proteins from the surface of the bacterium to trigger immunity.

(MORE: Parents Wary of Childhood Vaccines? Here’s How to Persuade Them)

DTaP is given in five doses in childhood, with the final dose given between ages 4 and 6. Although the vaccine offers strong protection soon after it is given, evidence suggest that protection peters out sooner than with the older vaccine — perhaps within five years. That’s why the CDC recommends a pertussis booster at age 11 or 12.

“Our pertussis vaccines are not perfect. They don’t provide protection for as long as we wish they would and this adds to our challenges during our times of increased disease,” said Schuchat. Still, children who have been vaccinated but catch whooping cough have less severe disease and are less infectious than unvaccinated children.

Pertussis is a contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing makes breathing difficult for suffers, often resulting in the deep “whooping” sound that characterizes the disease. It is particularly dangerous for young children and infants; half of babies who get the disease are hospitalized.

(MORE: 1 in 10 Parents Skips or Delays Vaccines)

Rates of pertussis tend to be cyclical in nature, with peaks occurring every three to five years or so. The last peak occurred in 2010, when more than 27,000 cases and 27 deaths were reported. So far, this year, nine children have died. “We may be hitting one of those cycles where we are in an upswing around the country,” said Schuchat. However, the rates of disease in young teens are different from what the CDC has seen in the past, which is why health officials recommend the booster shot — and have debated moving up its timing.

Along with children, teens aged 11 to 18 and adults aged 19 to 64 are recommended to receive a pertussis vaccine (the booster shot, called Tdap). Adults and pregnant women who may come into contact with a baby under 1 are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated with Tdap for the infants’ protection. Kids who don’t get vaccinated have an eight times higher risk of getting pertussis.

In 2010, 95% of 3-year-olds had received at least three doses of the DTaP vaccine, and 84% had had four doses. However, the number of kids and adults getting the booster shot were much lower. Sixty-nine percent of 13- to 17-year-olds had gotten Tdap and only 8% of adults had. “I know we can do better than this. We need to do better than this,” said Schuchat.

MORE: Should Pediatricians ‘Fire’ Patients Whose Parents Don’t Vaccinate?

15 comments
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Bob105
Bob105

The current pertussis outbreak is the result of a mutated version of the bacteria. The vaccine provides zero protection against this mutated form. The vaccine is what caused the mutation. Almost all cases are in fully vaccinated individuals. Before the vaccine people would get whooping cough and then have natural immunity which would last a lifetime. This immunity would be passed by the pregnant mom to her fetus. Thanks to the vaccine this has all been changed. The vaccine provides about a year of poor immunity. Then you have to get another and another and another. You ain't seen nothing yet. The U.S. medical industry is not only corrupt, they are incompetent.

attentionmorons
attentionmorons

The elephant in the room is illegal immigration. It's too bad that we can't have an honest discussion about this problem and make the public aware of the dangers they face just because of political correctness.

The media has no problem informing us of the dangers of eating a Big Mac or drinking a Coke, but god forbid someone mentions that illegal immigrants are bringing a host of highly dangerous, and even deadly, pests and diseases into this country.

voltaic
voltaic

"but vaccination rates aren’t as high as they should be" meaning that people are too stupid to get vaccinated because they are clueless about the repercussions of not doing so. As I was told long ago "Nothing dumber than people."

Patrick Thomas
Patrick Thomas

(Vaccine has caused bacteria to mutate, rendering vaccine useless):

Whooping cough strain now immune to vaccine  - -

“The bacteria that causes whooping cough has mutated, eroding the protection provided by the vaccine now given to children, scientists warned yesterday. Our findings suggest that the use of the acellular vaccine may be one factor contributing to these genetic changes."

http://www.dailytelegraph.com....

Patrick Thomas
Patrick Thomas

The overwhelming majority of those who contract this disease are fully vaccinated. I have dozens and dozens of mainstream news stories to back this up - including the following:

(Vaccine failure in NY):

"179 reported cases in Suffolk County, NY - according to Suffolk health officials, all those affected had been immunized in the past."

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news...

-------------------------------------------------------------

(Vaccine failure in Atlanta):

Whooping cough vaccine not as powerful as thought

 "Of the 18 students in the recent Cobb cluster, 17 were properly immunized with five doses of DTaP vaccine..."

http://www.ajc.com/health/cont...

Anna Riley-Pate
Anna Riley-Pate

 Did you even read the article? It said that the vaccination can wane after a couple of years, meaning that those young adults and adults you're citing aren't protected anymore. And mainstream news stories? Really? Because everything you read on the internet is factual and complete, right? Here's some truth for you: vaccines save lives. Period. It's why we don't worry about kids contracting things like polio and tuberculosis and typhoid fever anymore. Which, if you read some history, you would know used to kill entire swaths of populations.

Patrick Thomas
Patrick Thomas

(Mainstream study documents vaccine causing mutation, spreading of whooping cough):

Acellular pertussis vaccination enhances B. parapertussis colonization

"....vaccination led to a 40-fold enhancement of B. parapertussis colonization in the lungs of mice.....these data suggest that the vaccine may be contributing to the observed rise in whooping cough incidence over the last decade by promoting B. parapertussis infection."

http://www.cidd.psu.edu/resear...

Patrick Thomas
Patrick Thomas

(Top-dog vaccinator admits unvaccinated not to blame):

 (Excerpt): Anne Schuchat, MD, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters....."It does NOT appear that anti-vaccination sentiment among parents has contributed to either the national rise in cases or the Washington State epidemic", she says.

http://children.webmd.com/news...

sqweasel
sqweasel

Is it over the top to start blaming Jenny McCarthy and the other *sshats who have jumped on the "vaccinations are dangerous" bandwagon?  Seriously, folks, please have your children vaccinated!

happydayfortennis
happydayfortennis

Wrong. Everyone knows you should get important health advice from former celebrities with sob stories, not health professionals who have actually learned a thing or two about diseases and epidemics.

Spanawaygal
Spanawaygal

As a 60-something adult in Washington State, I had this crap starting in February-March, and the coughing continued at a reduced pace well into May.  At its worst, I seriously thought I might die.  Most doctors have difficulty diagnosing pertussis early enough, so please, if you can possibly do it, GET a VACCINATION NOW!!  Believe me, you do not want to go through what I did...