Whooping Cough Infections Witness a Spike

by Garreth Myers


Pertussis, more commonly known as a whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that occurs in the respiratory tract. This infection can cause a person to suffer from a violent, hacking cough that is usually followed by a high-pitched, whoop-like intake of breath. While this problem can affect people of all ages, it is more common in children and toddlers.

In the last few months the US has seen a spike in the incidents of whooping cough in several states. In the first quarter of this year, whooping cough hit a few areas of the country quite hard, especially in Iowa, Wisconsin, Texas and Washington State. Florida too has seen more than the normal reported cases of whooping cough this year.

In the early part of June 2012, the Tampa Bay Times reported an outbreak of the whooping cough, which struck 10 schools in the Hillsborough County area. Of these schools, 9 were public and one was a private school. There have been around 40 cases of whooping cough in the county this year, as compared to the two cases that were reported last year. Warren McDougle, the Epidemiology Program Manager for the Hillsborough County Health department expressed concern over how these infected children could further spread the condition to other exposed people at churches, camps, community centers and so on.

According to the New York Times, in May 2012 Washington State experienced the worst outbreak of whooping cough it has experienced in decades. This prompted the health officials to declare an epidemic and seek help from federal experts. Washington State was the first to declare a whooping cough epidemic since 2010.

So far there have been 1,280 reported cases of whooping cough in Washington State this year, which is 10 times more than the number of incidents reported last year. Health officials believe that the spike could continue and the State may see as many as 3,000 cases by the end of the year.

To reduce the costs of tests and to commence early treatment, Dr. Howard Leibrand, a full-time emergency room physician and Skagit County’s top medical officer urged local physicians to stop testing patients just to confirm a diagnosis of whooping cough. He said that if the symptoms of whooping cough are present, the patient should simply be treated with antibiotics.

People across the state were also urged to get vaccinated against the condition as soon as possible, in an attempt to keep the infection from spreading. Mary Selecky, the Washington State Secretary of Health claims that one of the main factors to compound the outbreak could be under-immunization, where children do not get the full series of the required vaccines to protect them against a disease.

According to officials at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of whooping cough cases has be gradually rising across the country, with periodic and regional outbreaks. In the year 2010, California reported its worst bout of pertussis in decades. Dr. Thomas Clarke, an epidemiologist with the CDC stated that the changes in the vaccines could be partially responsible for the epidemic. Health experts altered the formula in the early 90s, to reduce some of the side effects of the medication. The immunizing effects of the altered medication do not last for a long period of time either.

However, the role of vaccines in preventing whooping cough is still a controversial subject. While most health experts believe that getting vaccinated against pertussis is important, there are some who claim that the vaccine can actually increase the risks of the infection. Doctors too admit that the vaccination does not provide long-lasting immunization against the infection. Nevertheless, it is still recommend that parents and children get immunized against whooping cough, to keep the infection from spreading.

References:

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/features/pertussis/
  2. Julian Scott, Teresa Barlow, Chapter 22 - Whooping Cough, Herbs in the Treatment of Children, Churchill Livingstone, Saint Louis, 2003, Pages 249-255, ISBN 9780443071638, 10.1016/B978-0-443-07163-8.50025-3.

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