Whooping cough (pertussis) is on the rise in Spokane County and health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against the disease. So far in 2015 there have been 28 cases of whooping cough reported in the county, compared to five reported cases during the same period in 2014. Ten of these cases were reported in June alone.
Historically, most cases of pertussis are diagnosed in late-spring to early-autumn. Pertussis is cyclical and outbreaks occur every three-to-five years. The last whooping cough outbreak was in 2012, when 198 cases were reported in Spokane County and almost 5,000 cases were reported in Washington state. To date, there have been 834 pertussis cases reported in Washington, compared to 148 reported cases during the same time period in 2014.
Pertussis is a serious disease that begins with a cough and runny nose. After one to two weeks, the cough worsens. Children may have rapid coughing spells that end with a “whooping” sound. Adults may have less severe symptoms, but often have a cough which can last for many weeks. Pertussis has been called the ‘100 day cough.’
“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” said Dr. Joel McCullough, SRHD health officer. “Vaccination remains the best tool we have to protect ourselves and others from the disease, especially babies, who most often catch the illness from an adolescent or adult. It is especially important that pregnant women get vaccinated in every pregnancy, as infants are very susceptible to severe illness and even death from pertussis.
Whooping cough vaccines are recommended for all children and adults. Babies get their first dose at two months of age and need a series of shots to get the best protection. A single Tdap vaccination is recommended for adults aged 19 and above who have not had a pertussis vaccination in adulthood.
In Washington, all recommended vaccines are available at no cost for kids through age 18 from health care providers across the state. In addition to diagnosing and treating the illness, health care providers can help families determine if they have the recommended level of vaccine protection.
For more information about whooping cough and where to get vaccine, visit srhd.org/whoopingcough. More information can also be found on DOH’s web site at doh.wa.gov, or at srhd.org.