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  • Amid whooping cough epidemic, ensure immunizations are up to date

    by Cole Cosgrove

    Whooping cough (pertussis) has reached epidemic levels in Washington, the state DOH announced today.

    “People don’t realize that children are not the only ones at risk of pertussis infection,” said Susan Gustafson, RN, Infection Prevention Program Director at MultiCare Health System. "Protection from childhood pertussis vaccine wears off over time. The CDC now recommends that a pertussis vaccine be given to children between the ages of 11-18. Any adult who has not received the Tdap vaccine should get it.”

    "The CDC also recommends that pregnant women, after 20 weeks gestation, who have not yet received the Tdap vaccine, get vaccinated," Gustafson said. "The protection is passed on to their babies”

    The Mary Bridge Mobile Immunization Clinic provides free immunizations to all children from birth through age 18. For anyone who provides care for infants under age 1, free whooping cough vaccine is available if you are uninsured or cannot afford it. Click here for a schedule, or make an appointment at 253-792-6630.

    Additionally, MultiCare Mobile Health Services, based in Puyallup, offers vaccinations for children and adults throughout East Pierce County, and provides free immunizations to all children from birth through 18 years of age (an administration fee per vaccine may be billed to insurance, or can be reduced for those without insurance). No child will be denied vaccine based on ability to pay the fee. Call 253-697-4010 or visit the MultiCare Mobile Health Services website for a schedule.

    Here's the news release form the state Department of Health:

    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.”

    Whooping cough vaccines are recommended for all children and adults. The shots children get wear off over time. Everyone age 11 and older should get a whooping cough booster, called Tdap. It’s especially important for anyone who has close contact with babies younger than 12 months to get a dose of Tdap to help protect the baby from whooping cough. This includes parents, siblings, grandparents, health care providers, and child care providers.

    “Many adults don’t realize they need to be vaccinated, or they assume they have been,” said State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. “We’re asking everyone to verify with their health care provider that they’re up-to-date on vaccines. We’re also asking everyone to use good health manners — like cover your cough and stay home when you’re sick — that will also help prevent spreading whooping cough.”

    Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. It affects people of all ages — but is most serious in infants, especially those too young to get vaccinated or who aren’t fully protected. It causes cold-like symptoms followed by a long, severe cough that can last for weeks. Adolescents and adults often get a much milder case of whooping cough, but they can still spread it.

    We’re working to raise awareness among health care providers about the epidemic, and providing advice on testing, who should be vaccinated, and treatment guidelines. We’re also working closely with local health partners on disease tracking and monitoring to make sure we continue to have current information about the amount of disease in Washington. Weekly updates of case counts in counties throughout the state are posted online on Tuesday afternoons around three o’clock.

    All recommended vaccines are offered at no cost to all kids under 19 through health care provider offices participating in the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program. Health care providers may charge an office visit fee and a fee to give the vaccine, called an administration fee. People who cannot afford the administration fee can ask their regular health care provider if they’ll waive that cost. Most health insurance carriers will cover the whooping cough vaccine; adults should double-check with their health plan.

    Posted on Apr 3, 2012 in East Pierce County, News Release