CDC says 18,000 cases of whooping cough reported in US so far this year

News that the US is experiencing an unusually high number of pertussis cases this year received extensive coverage, particularly online, as well as on network news broadcasts, where it received more than six minutes of coverage. Most sources point to the role of vaccines in preventing the spread of pertussis.

NBC Nightly News reported that “whooping cough making a big comeback in this country. This is on track to be the worst year in five decades. There have been 18,000 reported cases just this year.” On the CBS Evening News, medical editor Jon LaPook, MD, said, “More than 3,000 case of the illness have been diagnosed in Washington State, that’s 13 times what they saw by this time last year.”

The CDC’s Dr. Thomas Clark said, “That’s really on track to be a record since the 1940s. And we’re seeing similar increases in most states around the country. In fact we’re probably on track to have another record year this year in 2012.”

In a second segment on NBC Nightly News NBC’s chief medical editor Nancy Snyderman, MD, touts the ability of vaccines to prevent pertussis and other illnesses.

USA Today reports, “‘We may need to go back to 1959 to find as many cases reported’ halfway through the year, said Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.” Fifty percent “of babies who get it are hospitalized, Schuchat said.”

The AP quotes Dr. Anne Schuchat as saying, “There is a lot of this out there, and there may be more coming to a place near you.”

According to the Wall Street Journal “Health Blog,” in addition to Washington State, several other states, including Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, Kansas and Arizona, have reported a high number of pertussis cases.

The Los Angeles Times “Science Now” blog reports, “About half the cases this year are in infants under the age of three months – not surprising because they are too young to have been vaccinated.”

WebMD reports, “Compared to children who are fully vaccinated, unvaccinated children have eight times the risk for getting whooping cough, Schuchat said.”

However, there has also been “an unusually high number of the new cases are among teenagers ages 13 and 14, a group that would normally not be expected to contract the bacterium at such a rate. That suggests, Schuchat said, that the effectiveness of the vaccine is waning a few years after vaccination.”

The CNN “The Chart” blog quotes Schuchat as saying, “We strongly urge pregnant women and all who will be around babies to be vaccinated. Infants often get pertussis from a family member or household member.”

Reuters reports that at a media briefing, Schuchat said, “Preventing infant deaths from the disease is our primary national goal.”

The Time “Healthland” blog reports, however, that according to Schuchat, “Our pertussis vaccines are not perfect. They don’t provide protection for as long as we wish they would and this adds to our challenges during our times of increased disease.”

The NBC News “Vitals” blog reports, “The CDC is trying to figure out what’s going on, but Schuchat said a couple of factors are clearly at work. The formulation for the whooping cough vaccine was changed in 1997, and kids hitting age 13 and 14 now are the first to have been fully vaccinated with five doses of the new vaccine. The new formulation causes less of a reaction, but it may also wear off sooner, Schuchat said.”

On its website, ABC News reports that Dr. Mark Sawyer, chairman of the CDC’s pertussis work group, said, “Our biggest work is to get adults immunized.” Sawyer added, “This is particularly relevant to pregnant women and new grandparents, who will have contact with infants.”

The Miami Herald reports, “Across South Florida, the number of whooping cough cases has increased over previous years.” From the beginning of the year until “July 9, Miami-Dade County had 26 confirmed and 10 probable cases of whooping cough, while Broward County had 26 confirmed and two probable, said Aaron Keller, public information specialist at the Florida Department of Health.” One “possible cause of this spike: parents refusing to have their children vaccinated, medical experts say.”

The AP reports that “New York state health officials are urging people to make sure they’re vaccinated” against whooping cough. The state has so far this year reported 970 cases of the illness.

The Orange County (CA) Register reports, “Whooping cough cases in California remain normal, despite an epidemic sweeping other parts of the country, state officials said Thursday.”

HealthDay reports, “The report is published in the July 20 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication.”

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