Whooping cough cases still on rise in state; health officials worry about major epidemic

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TACOMA — Concern is growing over whooping cough, with the number of cases skyrocketing statewide.

As of Tuesday, there were 456 cases compared with 98 for the same time last year.

With a 1-year-old and another baby on the way, Danesha Hill said her focus is to stay healthy.

“There is a lot of things that you don’t expect, like the whooping cough, that could take your kid’s life and I don’t want something like that happening because I missed a shot, something so simple,” Hill said.

There is a distinct sound when someone has whooping cough. Children cough so hard they gasp for breath.

Newborns are the most vulnerable to the bacteria because the first vaccine dose is not recommended until they are 2 months old. So health care experts encourage all pregnant women to get the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy to pass along the protection to their newborns.

“I just learned a couple of days ago that you need to get it every pregnancy, I didn’t know that,” Hill said.

“We might be heading towards a major epidemic such as what we saw in 2012,” said Denise Stinson, program manager for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

The statistics are alarming. Pierce County has already seen 62 cases so far this year compared with just 10 the same time last year.

King County has more than twice the cases this year, with 173 compared with 70 last year. In Thurston County, there are 19 cases compared with one case last year.

“Whooping cough, it’s a cyclical kind of disease where you expect increases every three to five years,” Stinson said.

The epidemic comes in cycles but a new study also revealed Tdap vaccinations wear off over time, which could be contributing to the increase.

“It’s very surprising I wasn’t aware of that,” parent Shanna Del Conte said.

Experts say some protection is better than nothing. The vaccine is most effective in the first year so experts say pregnant women like Hill and her newborn will benefit the most.

Babies go through a series of vaccines for the whooping cough. But the CDC is still only recommending one dose of the Tdap vaccine for adults.

Whooping cough starts out with cold-like symptoms but after about 1 to 2 weeks severe coughing can begin.

The coughing fits can last for weeks; sometimes it is so severe it causes vomiting or gagging.

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1 Comment

  • Jill

    There have been 3 confirmed cases at the Tacoma Waldorf School and all 3 children were up to date on vaccinations.

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