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Whooping Cough Epidemic — Who's to Blame?

The national debate over vaccinations has heated up as once-contained diseases like whooping cough and measles spread across the U.S.

file photo
file photo

By Melinda Carstensen

Whooping cough cases are up 24 percent across the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported, and in California the outbreak has reached epidemic proportions.

California health officials announced last week that the state saw the number of reported cases in 2014 already exceed those in all of 2013.

Whooping cough, medically known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease characterized by violent coughing and difficulty breathing. It spreads through sneezing and coughing, and can cause pneumonia, seizures, brain damage and death. Symptoms typically appear on average seven to 10 days after exposure.

It can be especially dangerous for young children and potentially fatal to infants.

Up until June 10, the California saw nearly 3,500 cases of whooping cough, including two infant deaths. More than 800 cases had been reported in the two-week span prior. Nationally there have been at least 9,964 cases reported, well ahead of the 2013 pace.

Officials are still investigating potential causes for the rise in whooping cough cases, but Seth Mnookin, author of “The Panic Virus,” said the under-immunization of kids and adults is likely a contributor to this year’s outbreak as it has been in the past.

As a part of the so-called anti-vax movement, some parents have opted not to get their kids vaccinated because of fear of autism or a vaccine overload, two suspicions that have been debunked by research. Still, concerns among some people remain strong

Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told the Washington Post the anti-vax movement likely contributed to the measles outbreak a couple of months ago. From January to April of this year, California had again been hit the hardest of all U.S. states, with 58 reported measles cases. The CDC reported that has been the largest measles outbreak since 1996.

Mnookin, the vaccination author, said recent measles outbreaks “are 100 percent due to the anti-vax movement.”

Last week, the Mobile County Health Department in Alabama announced an “alarming” rise in pertussis cases. In Tennessee cases are up 39 percent this year.

The California Department of Public Health announced that infants too young to be fully immunized are the most susceptible to pertussis. The first dose of the pertussis vaccine can be given at 6 weeks old.

More than 90 percent of kids nationally get the first three doses of the pertussis vaccine, but many don’t get the Tdap booster, which also protects against tetanus and diphtheria.

Officials are urging adults, especially pregnant women, to get that vaccination as well.

Pertussis is cyclical and peaks every three to five years, according to the CDC. The last peak was in 2010, when the disease impacted 9,159 people and killed 10 infants in California. More than 27,000 cases were reported nationally that year, Medical Daily reports.

Research published in 2013 in the journal Pediatrics suggests that outbreak was partially due to parents intentionally not vaccinating their kids.

While illness or vaccination provides immunity from measles, those things don’t guarantee protection from whooping cough. But experts say vaccination is the best step people can take to protect themselves.

“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Health, said in a press release. “We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible.”

“Vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease.”

Pertussis data, including the number of cases in each county, can be found on the CDPH website, which is updated regularly. 

Fred Bomonti DC June 20, 2014 at 05:56 PM
Sadeto Please start reading on page 337 in "Dissolving Illusions". Recently I had a patient that came in with the characteristic rash of measles, mild, which most are, and it was missed the her primary, because, because, she had had the inoculation (she was over the episode by the time she came to me). You do not see what you don't think exists. In addition, the initial vaccine introduced in the early 60's caused an increase in the number cases of pneumonia and encephalitis and was in fact considered an ineffective vaccine due to the high number of cases occurring in the vaccinated population. The top three reasons for the decline in these infectious diseases was clean water, improved sanitation and improved diet. Please take the time to read some literature before you post based on "faith". Note the trends, note the lack of impact vaccines on incidence when supposedly almost 80-95% of the population was "protected", the need for multiple inoculations to get even a 65% efficacy rate and the high number of those who contract the diseases who are supposedly "safe" with the vaccine. As for your snide remark regarding my profession, please anybody can read who is willing to take off their tinted shades and look at facts. I am a chiropractor, but that does not mean that I necessarily think that chiropractic is the cure for everything, but it can help the body with many things.... along with diet, exercise and the occasional medication. Nobody has all the answers, including conventional medicine, and vaccines have not been shown to more effective than the three factors mentioned above, good diet, good water, and good sanitation. Do some reading sadeto and then we can talk. I have given you a resource for an alternative perspective, be intelligent enough to read it before you criticize what you know nothing about. Unfortunately, the majority of the population is like Mr. Fangman, they would rather hang onto their "beliefs" than do some research.
Fred Bomonti DC June 20, 2014 at 06:54 PM
Mr. Salinger, the question that arises with your post is "why are your vaccinated children getting whooping cough in the first place if they are vaccinated?" If the vaccine does what it is supposed to do, shouldn't none of the vaccinated be getting the disease and only those not vaccinated be getting the disease? And, are those getting the disease getting it from those that were supposedly vaccinated? Those that seem to be the most rabid about vaccination seem to imply that if only those that were not vaccinated would have the inoculation then the disease (any) would disappear. The facts do not support that position as there are many incidences where 100% were vaccinated, but still the disease shows up.
Fred Bomonti DC June 20, 2014 at 07:30 PM
Ms. Manser, while I cannot find your post in this comment section, I received a copy of it by e-mail. Your attempt to discredit my comments by bringing in the history of chiropractic has no bearing on the subject at hand. To use the same frame of reference regarding conventional medicine would have us believing that we should inject mercury for syphilis and that we should be recommending smoking for asthmatics or that as late as the early 50's that pregnant women should smoke to relax. Name calling does nothing for the discussion at hand and your opinion that Dr Humphries is a "quack" without even looking at the citations in the book or the references shows a lack of understanding of the topic. Answer the questions I have raised with more than "faith". Faith is for religion not the injection of toxins into children.
sandy van sant June 20, 2014 at 09:43 PM
It is simplistic to question why some vaccinated children and adults still become infected with a disease, whether measles or pertussis. Herd immunity is a well-known concept in healthcare, and is vitally necessary to protect the public from vaccine-preventable disease. Without sufficient numbers receiving vaccines, even some of those who were vaccinated are at risk of becoming ill. The writer mentions "many incidences where 100% were vaccinated," but I doubt he could cite these many instances, as 100% vaccination rates hardly ever exist. A huge barrier to adequate vaccination rates is the fact that younger parents and even some healthcare providers have never seen the actual disease of things like measles, mumps and polio, so do not realize how serious they can be, particularly in very young infants and those who have impaired immune systems of any age. I have no interest in arguing with anti-vaccine persons, and am only writing to correct myths that are stated as facts.
jack June 25, 2014 at 09:07 AM
Wow..I'm really surprised to see no one is blaming the Mexicans. .

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