Washington State Whooping Cough Epidemic – King County Surpasses Total 2011 Cases In First Four Months Of 2012

Last week Governor Gregoire made emergency funds available to the Washington State Department of Health to help battle the whooping cough epidemic declared for Washington last month.

The Governor’s Office says, “Along with $210,000 in existing funds from the Department of Health, Gregoire is making $90,000 available from the governor’s emergency fund to strengthen public awareness efforts about the need for vaccination. Gregoire will keep access to the emergency fund open in the event the state needs to purchase additional vaccinations.”

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved using federal funds designated for other immunizations to buy more than 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccine for Washington State adults who are uninsured or under-insured.

According to Department of Health disease investigators, 1,132 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the state through April 28—that’s compared to 117 cases over the same time last year. There were 965 cases reported in all of 2011. The epidemic is on pace for as many as 3,000 cases in 2012.

King County has not seen the 229 whooping cough cases like Snohomish County has reported, but by April 28th it had surpassed the total number of cases seen in all of 2011. In King County, 125 cases of whooping cough were reported by the end of April.  In 2011, a total of 98 cases were detected in King County.  One of those 2011 cases was a Cascade View student.

Pertussis (whooping cough) is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes a long-lasting and often severe cough.  The illness usually starts with mild cold symptoms or cough, which can turn into severe coughing spells followed by gagging, or vomiting and sometimes a “whoop” sound when trying to catch the breath.  Young infants, adolescents and adults with whooping cough are less likely to make the “whoop” sound.  Infants with pertussis may eat poorly, turn blue or stop breathing.  Infants are also at highest risk for severe pertussis complications that require hospitalization, such as difficulty breathing, pneumonia and convulsions.

To date, 78 Washington infants under one year of age were reported as having whooping cough and twenty of them were hospitalized.  Of those hospitalized, sixteen (80%) were three months of age or younger.  Tim Church, WA State Department of Health spokesperson, said Washington State has a 6% (somewhat high) vaccine exemption rate for school-aged kids, which could one contributing factor, but other factors are still unknown.

All but one county neighboring King County have double, triple and more than quadruple the rate of whooping cough cases seen in King County.  Kittitas County, just to the east of Snoqualmie and North Bend, has a whooping cough rate nearly 8 times that of King County.  To find out the latest Washington State Whooping Cough statistics and reported cases click here.

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