Whooping cough on the rise; state responds

The Illinois Department of Public Health recently reported 2,026 Illinois cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, in calendar year 2012, the most since 1950.

“This record number highlights the importance of immunizations,” said Jane Lux, public health administrator at the DeKalb County Health Department. DeKalb County reported 22 cases in calendar year 2012, the highest number since 2009.

The increase is noted across the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during 2012, increased pertussis cases or outbreaks were reported in a majority of states. As of January 10, 2013, 49 states and Washington, D.C. reported increases in the disease in 2012 compared with 2011.

Pertussis is easily transmitted through coughing and sneezing and may cause illness that persists for weeks to months. Pertussis does not typically cause severe illness in healthy individuals, but can prolong absences from school and extracurricular activities. In addition, pertussis can be transmitted from healthy students to infants and individuals with chronic illnesses, for whom pertussis can be life threatening.

The vaccine is given with early childhood immunizations. However, protection from the vaccine – which offers protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis – begins to decrease over time. This puts pre-teens, teenagers and adults at risk for the illness. Because of this and the increased number of pertussis cases , Illinois is requiring all students entering or transferring into grades six through 12 to show proof of one dose of Tdap vaccine in addition to the other state-mandated vaccines for this age-group.

“As we approach the end of this school year, I encourage parents to schedule school physical and immunization appointments,” Lux said. She also encouraged adults to receive a Tdap booster.

To schedule an appointment at the county health department’s immunization clinic, call 815-748-2460. The staff will also help parents determine if their child needs any other vaccines.

The vaccine is covered by most private health insurance. For children who do not have insurance that pays for vaccines, the cost is $15 (cash, check, debit or credit). Medicaid is also accepted. Documentation that a child has received the vaccine will be provided.

For more information, visit www.dekalbcountyhealthdepartment.org, www.idph.state.il.us/public/hb/hbpertus.htm or www.cdc.gov/pertussis/.

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