Get Vaccinated! Whooping Cough Is Back Thanks to the Anti-Vaccine Crowd

By Steven D, Booman Tribune     Posted on June  9, 2012, Printed on June 13, 2012

My doctor told me I have to get a TDAP booster shot for pertussis otherwise known as whooping cough. Since we are currently experiencing an epidemic of whooping cough in many states, you might want to check to see of you need a booster shot as well.

I received an email from our local school district today informing me that there are cases of pertussis breaking out at the high school my daughter attends. Pertussis can be a fatal illness, especially for infants, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. I fall into the latter category. The symptoms of whooping cough are similar to many other respiratory diseases so it is often incorrectly diagnosed until the worst symptoms appear.

Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks. […]Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, over and over, until the air is gone from the lungs and you are forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound. This extreme coughing can cause you to throw up and be very tired. […]

As the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis appear and include:

  • Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop”
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Exhaustion (very tired) after coughing fits

The coughing fits can go on for up to 10 weeks or more. In China, pertussis is known as the “100 day cough.” […]

Recovery from pertussis can happen slowly. The cough becomes less severe and less common. However, coughing fits can return with other respiratory infections for many months after pertussis started.

It seems pertussis or whooping cough has made a big comeback in the US. It was practically nonexistent in the 70’s and 80’s but cutbacks to public health funding and fear of vaccinations seems to have led to a return of these diseases. In 2010 we had over 27,000 cases and this year so far we have over 12,000 cases of this disease that we once thought had been effectively eliminated from the US.

Washington is another state where the local data is more current than that from the CDC. Washington reports 2,092 pertussis cases for 2012 on its website, through week 22. That is 193 more cases than the CDC has. Wisconsin has the second highest number of whooping cough cases reported to the CDC. It reported 210 additional cases last week for a total of 1,196 cases for the year. Dane County and the state capital of Madison have been the center of the outbreak, the Wisconsin State Journal reports, seeing at least 357 pertussis cases in 2012. New York State has reported 1,056 pertussis cases. Minnesota has 815 while Illinois has 660. The top ten states, reporting 338 whooping cough cases or more for 2012, account for 69 percent of the national total.

States that allow parent to opt out of vaccinations develop clusters where outbreaks start that can lead to epidemics. Also, some doctors believe the current vaccine for pertussis may not be as effective as in the past since they are no longer based on dead whole cells of the bacteria that causes whooping cough but only contain selected proteins (antigens) of the pertussis bacteria.

Why, at a time of high vaccination rates among schoolchildren, does whooping cough appear to be coming back? And why are the victims older, for the most part, than those who became ill in the pre-vaccine era?Researchers say there is evidence that clusters of unvaccinated children play a role. Better diagnosis and heightened awareness also may have led to increased reporting of cases, said Dr. James Cherry, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of California Los Angeles.

The vaccine children receive today is different from the ones introduced 70 years ago. Some of the original immunizations were “whole-cell” vaccines, made from killed whole cells of the bacterium that causes whooping cough. Eventually, those old whole-cell vaccines led to the development of the diptheria-tetanus-pertussis shot, or DTP, which became a mainstay in the school immunization routine.

“That whole-cell vaccine works well at the beginning, and it lasts and lasts and lasts,” said Dr. Roger Baxter, co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center. […]

Cherry said there is evidence that immunity to pertussis from any source — whole-cell vaccines, acellular vaccines or even from surviving whooping cough — wanes over time, and that the disease is circulating among teens and adults who come down with the disease but are rarely diagnosed.

Some people object to vaccinations, either because they are concerned about autism caused by the use of thimerosal as a preservative (which some people have tried to link to autism) or because of rumors that all vaccines are made from the tissue of aborted fetuses. In truth, there are a few vaccines that require human tissue as a culture to grow the bacteria or viruses necessary to make vacines, and most of those are made from a few cell lines created decades ago. However, you should know that this is no excuse not to be vaccinated against pertussis. The manufacture of the vaccine does not require cultures of tissue from existing human cell lines, nor do most of them include thimerosal as a preservative. Please check with your Doctor to see if you or your child should get a Pertussis booster shot. This is nothing to sneeze at if you are elderly, have an infant, or, like me have a compromised and weak immune system. Pertussis in adults can lead to pneumonia and hospitalization.

The infection causes coughing spells so severe that it can be hard to breathe, eat, or sleep. Pertussis can lead to pneumonia or hospitalization.

The vaccine booster will prevent the illness even in people with weaker immune systems and will also prevent parents from passing on the illness to young children if the parents are vaccinated in time.

Failure to do so now risks not only your health but the health of others. The best way to stop an epidemic is for everyone to be vaccinated and if it has been a while since your last vaccination, to receive a booster shot as soon as possible. We already have far too many adults and children who have not been vaccinated or received a timely booster shot against this easily preventable disease.

Dr. Jim Lace, a pediatrician [in Oregon], said vaccinating children against pertussis is the same kind of risk management parents employ when they put kids in car seats.”What parents lose sight of is that they think whooping cough is not serious or it’s a conspiracy for people to make money,” he said. “For a lot of parents, they don’t always deal in realities when it comes to risk management. We still see whooping cough all the time. And we see it in the unimmunized population.” […]

“It could be some folks not getting the vaccine, or some not getting the booster shot,” Duncan said. “It’s never just one thing.”

As the old Nike ad said: “Just do it.”


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