MOUNT VERNON — According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, whooping cough, or pertussis, is rising to epidemic proportions in some states. There have been 10 deaths in the country resulting from the illness and nine of those were infants.
So far in Knox County this year, Karen Lee, a registered nurse at the Knox County Health Department, noted that there were three cases in the county in 2011 and in mid-June this year there were two reported cases. Ohio statutes requires doctors to report infectious diseases like whooping cough.
The CDC is calling for mass vaccinations of adults. Infants are the most vulnerable and it is important to vaccinate the adults who interact with them as well as pregnant women so the immunity will be passed to their unborn children.
To date, 18,000 cases have been reported to the CDC nationwide, twice the number reported to the CDC for the same time last year. In 2010, 27,000 cases were reported and 27 people died.
The CDC tracks cases of notifiable diseases weekly and their official report for the week ending July 16 showed Wisconsin had the most reported cases with 3,041, and Washington with 2,854; but recent news reports indicate Washington has since exceeded 3,000 cases. Upstate New York and Illinois each had over 1,000 cases as of July 16 report.
In the report, Ohio is cited with 379 cases, 53 cases less than the same week last year. However, that does not imply that Ohioans shouldn’t be vigilant.
Whooping cough is caused by a bacterial infection. It is more commonly called whooping cough rather than pertussis because of the persistent cough it causes. Patients often gasp for air, making a distinctive whooping sound. The infection lasts approximately six weeks.
In addition to infants, children ages 13 and 14 are also experiencing an increase. They were in the first age group to have been fully vaccinated with five doses of a new safer vaccine by age 6, but the vaccines they received may have worn off.
And while adults are supposed to have at least one dose of whooping cough vaccine, only 8.2 percent in the U.S. are recorded to have been immunized.
Another reason for the rising number of cases seems to stem from the fact that every state permits exemptions to immunization requirements. The two most common are medical and religious exemptions.
Twenty states allow a personal or philosophical exemption and of the nine states reporting over 200 cases, six of them offer the exemption and together have reported 50 percent of the current cases.
One of those states is Ohio. Wisconsin and Washington, the two states with the highest number of cases, also offer the exemption.
For more information or to inquire about immunizations, contact the Knox County Health Department at 740-392-2200.
Knox County sees increase in number of reportable diseases January 24, 2008