A whooping cough epidemic has been spreading across the United States since 2012 and is still going strong. States like Colorado and Minnesota are making it a point to push vaccines to adults and school aged children in hope of stopping the spread of the epidemic.
Dr. Rachel Herlihy, deputy director for the Division of Disease Control at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment says that a change in the pertussis vaccine that is used to prevent the spread of whooping cough could be to blame for the recent epidemic.
“What we’ve learned in the last couple of years is that the switch in vaccines has led to greater issues of waning immunity to pertussis, which means that the protection provided by the vaccine isn’t lasting as long as we’d ideally like,” she said.
2012 was the worst year for whooping cough. U.S. health officials received reports of more than 48,000 cases, including 18 deaths. So far this year there have only been about 20,000 reported illnesses and 6 deaths.
Researchers believe that the new vaccines are preventing people from getting sick, but does not stop them from spreading the disease. People who have received the vaccine may not show signs or suffer symptoms of it, but they can still spread it by coughing, talking or exhaling.
Studies show that although people who receive the vaccine are not sick, they are still contagious. The bacteria that causes whooping cough can live in a vaccinated person’s lungs for up to 5 weeks. During this time it can be spread to others.
Health officials still believe that the vaccines are the best option when it comes to preventing whooping cough and reducing the number of people who die from the illness every year. Will you be getting the pertussis vaccine this year?
Image from Wikimedia Commons.