Whooping cough epidemic continues at record pace

State on target for more than 3,000 cases this year, the most in six decades

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



The state’s whooping cough epidemic is on pace to reach more than 3,000 cases this year — levels that haven’t been seen in more than six decades.

The number of whooping cough cases in the state climbed to 1,008 as of April 21. That’s the highest number since 1,026 cases were reported in all of 2005, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

In the past week, 111 new cases have been reported across the state. In Clark County, no new cases have been reported in the past week, leaving the total at 83, according to Clark County Public Health.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an illness spread through respiratory secretions such as coughing and sneezing. State and local health officials encourage vaccination to prevent the spread of the illness.

People with whooping cough experience coldlike symptoms and a persistent cough lasting several weeks. Young children and infants usually have a cough with a spasm, causing the “whoop” sound at the end of the cough. They may also vomit or spit up after coughing and have difficulty catching their breath.

Whooping cough is particularly dangerous, and potentially life-threatening, for infants who are too young to be vaccinated. Infants can develop serious complications from the illness such as pneumonia and brain inflammation.

Already this year in Washington, 71 children younger than a year old have contracted the illness. Of those, 18 have been hospitalized. No babies have died from whooping cough this year.

Adults and older children usually get milder symptoms from whooping cough; however, they can still spread the illness to others. Pregnant women, especially those in their third trimester, are at risk of passing the illness on to their baby if they’re not vaccinated.