Today Secretary of Health Mary Selecky announced that whooping cough disease has reached epidemic levels in Washington. So far in 2012, 640 cases have been reported in 23 counties as of March 31. This compares to 94 cases during this same time period last year, putting Washington on-pace to have the highest number of reported cases in decades.
“We’re very concerned about the continued rapid increase in reported cases,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “This disease can be very serious for young babies, who often get whooping cough from adults and other family members. We want all teens and adults who haven’t had Tdap to be vaccinated to help protect babies that are too young for the vaccine.”
Source: Science Based Medicine
More from the Science-based Medicine site which addresses the question to what extent is this increase due to vaccine refusal vs waning efficacy of the vaccine itself?
There is evidence that the bacterium is evolving new strains that are less well covered by the DTaP vaccine.
Another contributing factor is the waning immunity provided by either infection or vaccination.
Finally there are serious concerns about vaccine refusal as a contributor to the resurgence of whooping cough. Thanks to the anti-vaccine movement there is unsubstantiated fear about the safety of vaccines. In particular there are pockets of vaccine refusal resulting in a loss of herd immunity. Herd immunity results when enough of the population is immune so that an infectious disease cannot spread, so cases become isolated and do not cause an epidemic. Without herd immunity pertussis infections can spread through a population.
So, there is not much the average person can do about the first and second factors but we can do something about the third. Washington state is rolling out an information campaign that will tell parents that whooping cough kills babies. Your baby is at risk from the people around you that can carry this disease. That’s a scary thought. I would be petrified to take an infant out today in our society where vaccination rates are dropping. Every cough I heard would make me want to get away. More people need to know the risk and the prudent course of action. Get vaccinated.