Reported Cases of Whooping Cough Highest in 50 Years
July 20, 2012

Reported Cases of Whooping Cough Highest in 50 Years

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Feelings of congestion saddled with a cough. An uncontrollable fever and runny nose. These are just a few symptoms of pertussis, otherwise known as the whooping cough. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. will have the highest number of cases of whooping cough in more than five decades.

Experts believe that the increase in cases signals that the current vaccine is not entirely effective. So far, there have been almost 18,000 cases reported, which is twice the number of cases reported last year. The Associated Press states that, at this rate, the number of cases for all of 2012 will be as high as around 40,000; the last time this number of cases was reported was in 1959. A total of nine children have died as a result of the whooping cough. The states with highest outbreaks included Arizona, Minnesota, New York, Washington, and Wisconsin.

“My biggest concern is for the babies. They´re the ones who get hit the hardest,” commented Mary Selecky, chief of the health department in Washington, in an Associated Press article.

Whooping cough has been on the rise in the past years, but the recent uptick is startling for health investigators who are attempting to piece together the cases. They believe that the rise could possibly be due to improved detection and reporting of cases, an evolution in the bacteria, or difficulties with the vaccine. The vaccine was last replaced in the 1990s due to the side effects like rashes and fever. The new version is safer, but is possibly not effective long-term.

As well, the disease is thought to be a common threat that´s highly contagious. It can affect people of all ages, but children are most susceptible. It travels via coughing and sneezing. The whooping cough used to be a common threat, but the number of cases decreased after a vaccine that was offered in the 1940s. Less than 5,000 cases were reported on an annual basis the past 25 years, but have risen since the 1990s.

The whooping cough is thought to begin in cycles and reaches a high number of cases every three to five years. Researchers hope the vaccination can reduce the amount of infection in the population and allow cycles to be longer. As such, children are advised to get vaccinated with DTaP. There are approximately five doses; the first shot is given at two months, the last between four to six years of age, with a booster shoot around eleven to twelve years old. Parents who believe that their child has developed a mild cough are recommended to visit the doctor, who will generally give patients antibiotics to treat whooping cough. Adults, especially pregnant women, are also advised to receive the vaccination.

"Our biggest work is to get adults immunized," commented Dr. Mark Sawyer, chairman of the CDC's pertussis work group and professor of pediatrics at UCSD, in an article by ABC News. "This is particularly relevant to pregnant women and new grandparents, who will have contact with infants."

Lastly, USA Today reports that the CDC has launched an investigation to look into why the outbreak is taking place. With the spike in reported cases of whooping cough, public health authorities believe that the next few years will be difficult.

“There is a lot of pertussis out there, and there may be more coming to a place near you,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of the CDC´s immunization and respiratory disease program, told the Associated Press.