Washington State Whooping Cough Epidemic Grows to Over 3,000 Cases; CDC Says Childhood Vaccine Might Wear Off Early

In April, the Washington State Department of Health declared whooping cough (pertussis) had hit epidemic levels in our state as it crossed 2,000 reported cases. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) brought in investigators to research Washington’s huge rise in cases.

Three months later, we’ve crossed 3,000 reported cases.  Last year at this time only 219 cases were reported.  The age group contracting whooping cough at the highest rate is kids ages 10-13 years old; reporting a state-wide rate of 218 cases per 100,000 persons and accounting for 25% of Washington’s total cases.  Nationwide, 10-year-olds are coming down with pertussis most often; accounting for 25% of the cases across the United States – and higher than any other age group from 1-19 years of age.

The CDC says these statistics hint that the DTaP vaccine may be wearing off earlier than predicted.  The vaccine is supposed to be effective until (at least) a child’s 11-year-old check up, a time when public schools require its booster before entering middle school.  By 3 years of age, over 80% of Washington kids have been vaccinated with DTaP.

In 1997, the CDC switched to a new whooping cough vaccine. Previously it was called DTwP which sometimes caused fever and swelling of the injection site.  Some children also reported neurological issues, but according to the CDC it wasn’t proved the vaccine was the cause.

This large group of kids coming down with whooping cough today would’ve received the newer vaccine.  According to the Seattle Times, “Investigators plan to continue looking at the protection time of both vaccines.”  An even newer vaccine, Tdap, was introduced in 2005 to offer better protections for teenagers and adults against pertussis.  In Washington, 70% of  13-17 year-olds have had their Tdap shot.

In July 2012, King County is reporting a whooping cough rate of roughly 25 cases per 100,000 residents, with 490 cases reported so far.  In all neighboring counties that rate is doubled.  State-wide Skagit County has the highest rate at 440 cases per 100,000 persons.  Nationally, 10 people have died from the disease, none in Washington.  Children under the age of 1, because they haven’t been fully vaccinated, face the most complications from pertussis and have the highest mortality rate.  To learn more about whooping cough click HERE.

On local and personal note, in June we visited a Snoqualmie Valley Hospital Clinic doctor for a suspicious cough in our 10-year-old.  Luckily, the cough was just a side effect of her asthma, not pertussis.  Dr. Gray did tell us that the clinic has diagnosed whooping cough in the valley and that they are seeing it a lot in my daughter’s 10-11 year old age group, as well as teenagers.  He recommended she get her booster early and that I vaccinate my older teenage children with the Tdap vaccine.

Currently, Washington State accounts for one sixth of all the 2012 reported whooping cough cases nation-wide.  To read the most recent Washington pertussis update click HERE.


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