Whooping Cough Cases Reaching Record Levels In Washington

Apr 3, 2012

Secretary of Health Mary Selecky announced today that as of last month, there have been 640 cases of whooping cough. That’s compared to 94 in the same period last year.

Selecky: “If this pace continues, we’re on track to have the highest number of whooping cough cases in our state in decades.”

Whooping cough is the common name for pertussis. It’s a highly contagious bacterial disease that affects all ages. It spreads through coughing and sneezing. It can be fatal for babies because their immune system isn’t fully developed, and they’re too young for vaccination.

Selecky: “We’ve seen an increase in the disease in babies, a sign that it’s a real increase rather than mostly from testing and reporting.”

Selecky says four babies died of whooping cough over the last two years.

Part of the challenge is many people don’t realize they have whooping cough. The symptoms are similar to a common cold, and often followed by severe, persistent coughing. Selecky says most people don’t know they need to get vaccinated. Those who think they already have been, should see if they’re up to date. Vaccines wear off over time.

Copyright 2012 KUOW.