Whooping cough is on the rise again in Utah. There have been more than 1,100 reported cases of pertussis or ‘whooping cough’ statewide so far this year, five times the national rate. Nicholas Rupp of the Salt Lake Valley Health Department says the state has seen twice as many cases as last year.
“We tend to see kind of a cyclical occurrence with pertussis that every 5 or 6 years it spikes a little bit and then wanes and goes up and down. We are kind of in that higher point right now in the cycle. But also studies are showing that the vaccine that we have been using since the mid 90s, that its effectiveness may wane a little sooner than was originally thought,” he says.
Infants and those between the ages of 5 and 14 are most susceptible to pertussis, and it can be fatal to infants. The state defines a pertussis “outbreak” as two or more cases within the same school or childcare center within 21 days of each other. Rupp says it’s important for all adults and children to get vaccinated.
“The number one thing that parents can do is to ensure that their children are adequately immunized. Talk to their health care providers, talk to their local health department, and ensure that they have received any boosters that they should. And adults need to make sure that they are vaccinated. Teachers, daycare workers, parents or anyone who may be around children be vaccinated for pertussis and ensure they have received that booster as an adult,” he says.
The Utah Department of Health recommends students who have a persistent cough and other symptoms of pertussis be kept out of school through the incubation period of the bacteria or until they take appropriate antibiotics. There have been 1,179 reported cases of pertussis as of November 24th, compared to 618 the same time last year.