COMMENTARY | The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in their latest report, show that 13,946 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the United States for 2012. This figure is low since Minnesota's 1,241 pertussis cases are not included in the CDC count. The ages of those with the illness are important.
Whooping cough is affecting two major age groups. Both have little immunity to the illness. Infants, those under 12 months of age, have received few if any of the pertussis vaccine immunizations. "Tweens," children ages 10-13, are experiencing pertussis in high numbers due to the fall-off in vaccine produced immunity at about that age. The CDC suggests a booster at ages 11-12.
Infants are at highest risk from whooping cough. Children under the age of six months will have received no immunizations at all. Children ages six to 12 months may have received two of the five pertussis immunizations in the suggested schedule. Many parents delay or defer infant immunizations, including this one, leaving infants with little or no immunity.
The state of Washington declared a whooping cough epidemic earlier this year. Through June 16, the state reports 156 infant cases of pertussis, with 36 hospitalized. Infants represent 6.2 percent of all cases and their infection rate is very high at 176.2 cases per 100,000 infant population. Of those infants hospitalized, 26 were under the age of three months. In the 2010-2011 school year, only 83.6 percent of sixth graders had received the booster.
Texas shows equally high rates for whooping cough in infants. From 2006 through 2010, children under 12 months of age had pertussis infection rates between 63.8 and 162.3 cases per 100,000 of population. In the 2008-2009 school year, only 63.9 percent of Texas seventh graders had received the booster.
A 2007 study titled Historical Comparisons of Morbidity and Mortality for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the United States details the whooping cough case numbers pre-vaccine. In the decade 1934 to 1943, there were an average of 20,000 pertussis cases yearly. Those illnesses resulted in an average of 403 deaths per year.
The epidemic in California in 2010 saw 9,143 cases of whooping cough and 10 deaths, all infants. In 2009, the CDC reported 16,858 pertussis cases nationally and 12 infant deaths. Infants catch whooping cough from the people around them, siblings, parents, care providers and even grandparents.
The standard schedule for whooping cough immunization is five shots by age 5 and a booster at age 11-12. Additionally, everyone who is around an infant should receive a booster. Babies are put at risk by delaying, deferring or ignoring pertussis immunizations.
- Public Health
- Whooping cough
- Centers for Disease Control