Whooping cough cases piling up in Colorado

  1. this is scary!


    FORT COLLINS (AP) - Larimer County health officials fighting an outbreak of whooping cough say all nine of the county's recent confirmed patients had their pertussis shots as toddlers.

    They got sick as teenagers.

    The vaccine for pertussis, or whooping cough, is recommended for children before they start first grade, but the vaccine doesn't protect into adolescence and adulthood.

    "Many vaccines, like measles, tetanus and pertussis, are safe and effective, but that immunity wears off," said Dr. James Todd, chief epidemiologist at Children's Hospital in Denver.

    The older version of the pertussis vaccine was known to cause severe reactions in older children and adults, Todd said. But the current vaccine may be safe for older children and adults.

    Dr. Ned Calonge, the state's chief medical officer, said the vaccine is approved for use in older children and adults in Canada.

    "The reason you want to prevent pertussis in middle and high school kids is to keep them from bringing it home to younger siblings, where the disease is much more serious," Calonge said.

    Pertussis can cause pneumonia, seizures and occasionally death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.3 percent of babies under a month old who get whooping cough die of it.

    As of Monday, 126 people in Colorado had gotten sick with whooping cough, the state health department said. Forty of them were between the ages of 10 and 20 rather than the very young, according to the department.

    Only Massachusetts, with 438, and New York, with 388, had more total cases as of early April, according to the most recent figures from the CDC.

    Todd said it's "a fair assumption" of a connection between the disease's outbreaks in Colorado and the state's "woefully inadequate" pertussis immunization record.

    Colorado lags behind all other 49 states in getting children vaccinated, according to CDC figures.

    Some parents object to vaccines for various reasons, but health officials blame Colorado's poor vaccination rate on reasons such as a lack of state funding to provide shots for poor and uninsured children.
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