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As of last week, southwest Missouri had 251 reported cases of whooping cough. In 2004 Greene County reported 23 cases. That number nearly doubled in 2005.
Emily Nash reports on the new initiatives to stop this recent trend
In the 1930's the Pertussis epidemic, better known as whooping cough, killed over nine thousand people.
Once a vaccine was found in the 1940's, the disease was almost completely eliminated.
But whooping cough is back.
Sue Denny is the Project Specialist for the Missouri Bureau of Immunizations Assessment.
Sue Says,"We've been seeing more cases reported in the last few years in Missouri and nation wide. And that is a problem. In the 40's and 50's we had a lot of reduction in disease, but starting in about oh, the late 90's and 2000, we started seeing some peaks in the disease, and more cases have been reported and we aren't sure whether that's a reporting issue, whether that's because there truly is more disease, whether we are a lot more sensitive to that, some people have even suggested that the type of, Pertussis we are seeing is a little bit different than what is in the vaccine."
Pertussis is a bacterial respiratory illness that causes severe coughing spasms.
It can last for weeks or months at a time and is extremely contagious especially for newborn babies.
The Center for Disease Control has previously named it one of the major causes of deaths among infants and young children.
Dr. Robert Steele is a Pediatrician at St. John's Medical Center in Springfield and is also the Chairman of the State Advisory committee for Childhood Immunizations.
He says there has been a rising trend in the number of whooping cough cases reported
Dr. Steele Says, "Nation wide there has been an increase of at least 20-30% even over the last several years, in Missouri its even greater than that. So to give you some numbers about 4 years ago, we had cases that were literally just in the couple hundreds per year, now we are in the thousands." (:18) "When you look at the specific demographic where the increase is occurring, its occurring in adolescents and adults. So the parents of little babies, the baby sitters of little babies, the grandparents of little babies, they are the ones that are getting whooping cough and passing it on to those babies."
Infants that are under 6 months old are most at risk for death from whooping cough.
Although they begin the three-shot immunization series at two months old, the vaccine does not fully protect them from the disease until all three shots are administered.
Sue Denny says, this vaccine given to infants for Pertussis, only protects them for a few years.
Sue Says,"Pertussis is a disease that has been around for a very long time. Up until now, the problem has been that only children up to age 7 could receive the Pertussis vaccine, and that immunity does not last very long. We usually figure about 5, 6, 7 years. So that after that immunity weighs, a person could get Pertussis and could potentially pass it on to a very young baby. When very young babies get the disease, they usually have to be hospitalized, they become very ill, it is difficult for them to eat, its difficult for them to breathe."
A new Pertussis vaccine came on the market about a year ago, and is now available to be added to the Tetanus and Diphtheria boosters.
This shot was originally recommended only for teenagers.
But, recently, the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices has expanded this recommendation to adults.
More specifically, those who are in close contact with infants.
St. John's has taken the lead in this initiative.
Starting last month, before the ACIP's recommendations, the hospital began immunizing all Health Care Workers and Post-partum mothers at St. John's for Pertussis.
Dr. Steele from St. John's says the need for these new recommendations is especially important in Springfield.
Dr. Steele says,"Presumably, in the larger cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield, are rates are higher, and in fact they are when you go by county, cause Greene County's rates are high, that by making these recommendations and instituting immunization like this, we could make a dramatic impact because our rates are even higher than the rest of the nation."
Dr. Steele has some recommendations to stop this recent whooping cough trend from becoming another epidemic.
Dr. Steele says, "I'd say that if you have not had a Tetnis shot, within the last 2 years, that your next Tetnis shot should contain pertussis. You oughta ask your doctor about making sure you get the Pertussis vaccine then."
For more information on Pertussis, visit the Center for Disease Control websight at www.cdc.gov.
For KSMU News, I'm Emily Nash