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The Latest on the Pertussis Outbreak

Gregor Halenda

Since our previous post on the rise of Whooping Cough, Washington State has declared an epidemic. So far in 2012, Washington State alone has reported more than 3,000 cases, up from 230 cases during the same time period in 2011, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

A total of 18,000 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of July 19th, more than twice the amount reported during the same period in 2011.

Plus: 2012 May Be Record Year for Whooping Cough

In line with previous outbreaks, infants are most susceptible because they don’t start receiving vaccinations until two months of age. This year, however, epidemiologists are noticing more cases in older children, according to a recent CDC press briefing.

“We're seeing high rates among children 10 years of age. We realize that by age 10, immunity can wane from the early-childhood vaccines that kids get,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC said in the briefing. Even with the waning immunity, the earlier vaccines can reduce the intensity of infection, she added.

Plus: Complete Health Guide to Vaccines

Schuchat recommends that children ages 11 or 12 receive a pertussis booster called Tdap to help counter the waning effects of the vaccine they received as young children. The CDC also recommends pregnant women, and those who have frequent contact with infants too young to be vaccinated, get a Tdap booster.

Plus: 10 Vaccine Myths—Busted

While the CDC did not find any connection between unvaccinated populations and the current outbreak, Schuchat did caution against abstaining. “People who are not vaccinated have about an eight times higher risk of disease than people who are vaccinated. We know there are places around the country where there are large numbers of people who aren't vaccinated. However, we don't think those exemptors are driving this current wave.”

Read more information from the CDC on pertussis.

Have you had cases of whooping cough in your community?