Whooping Cough Update: Adults Who Don't Get Boosters Are At Risk!

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Whooping Cough Update: Adults Who Don't Get Boosters Are At Risk!

A successful vaccination program largely eradicated this disease

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Here’s an alarming statistic from state health officials: reported cases of whooping cough have tripled in the last year. The Central Valley, San Francisco and the Los Angeles region experienced the biggest increase. Between January 1 and May 31, the state recorded 584 cases, with 121 in Los Angeles and 41 in Orange County. Five infants have died so far.

Whooping cough, known by its medical name pertussis, is an infectious illness of the respiratory mucous membrane. Often misdiagnosed, pertussis causes severe coughing with spasms. Left untreated, it can linger for months and even cause death.

Infants and children are the most vulnerable, and for this reason health officials advocate a strategy called “cocooning.” Anyone in contact with an infant too small (under 6 months) to receive the vaccine should be immunized, thereby providing a protective shield around the child. While most adults will have been vaccinated during their own childhoods, the effectiveness of the vaccine begins to wane after five or so years. The booster for adults and adolescents, Tdap, has only been available since 2005.

Pertussis comes and goes in cycles of about three to five years. The last spike was in 2005 according to Dr. Jasjit Singh, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Children’s Hospital in Orange County. In the past, California reached a high of 21,344 cases in 1941. A vigorous vaccination program brought the numbers down to 75 in 1976, but they have been steadily increasing ever since. Currently only 93 percent of the state’s children are properly vaccinated.

The disease is named after the high-pitched intake of breath — the “whoop” — that accompanies short, severe coughing. “Whoop” derives from the Old French word houper, “to cry out,” and goes back to at least 1460. Ironically, a whoop is also defined as a joyful cry.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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