Newsvine members should be aware that current whooping cough rates in the U.S. are at the highest they've been in five years and are on the way to being the worst rates in five decades, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said to reporters on Thursday (7/19/12).
Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported so far - more than twice the number seen at this point last year. At this pace, the number of whooping cough cases will surpass every year since 1959.
In Washington, the State Department of Health declared an epidemic earlier this year, as numbers reached staggering levels. More than 2,500 people are reported to have whooping cough, compared to 179 cases reported during the same period in 2011.
“We’re in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic,” said Tim Church, director of communications for the Washington State Department of Health. “We have about 10 times the number of cases we would expect to see in a normal year.”
Rising numbers also have been reported in Oregon, Wisconsin, and Maine. These startling numbers come after California had its worse bout with whooping cough in decades in 2010.
Pertussis, the formal name for whooping cough, is caused by the Bordetella pertussis or Bordetella parapertussis bacteria that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing making it hard to breath, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because it can be difficult to breath, those with the disease make a "whooping" sound when they inhale, leading to the illness' commonly known name. The infection usually lasts six weeks and can affect people of any age. Infants are especially affected by the disease and need to be monitored in case they stop breathing. Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, added that more than half of babies need to be cared for in the hospital.
The disease is most dangerous for babies, with half of infants younger than 1 year of age diagnosed with pertussis requiring hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Calling the increase in the number of infected across age groups "substantial," Dr. Schuchat said on a conference call with HealthPop that many states are seeing higher than normal cases of the illness. To date, 18,000 cases have been reported to the CDC in 2012, more than twice as many as the same time last year. Nine infants have already.
The numbers are on a fast track to beat out recent high rates in 2010, when 27,000 cases were reported, resulting in 27 deaths. Twenty-five of those were infants. The rates may also surpass all previous annual estimates the CDC has reported on since 1959. Worldwide whooping cough rates are also increasing, with many cases being reported in Canada. Australia is reporting higher rates of incidence than the U.S.
Whooping cough it has since fallen off the radar for many in the country, its recent comeback can be attributed to several factors, according to experts.
Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC, said that although it may come to mind, the outbreaks are probably not the result of the increase in the number of parents choosing not to vaccinate their children from certain diseases. Some parents have chosen this route in recent years because of a highly discredited claim in a 1998 medical journal that the vaccine for MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) is linked to autism.
Dr. Schuchat said, "There is a lot Whooping Cough out there, and there may be more coming to a place near you." The CDC is urging adults and especially pregnant women to get vaccinated so they don't spread it to infants who are too young to get the vaccine.