Whooping cough on the rise, health officials urge vaccination

  • Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 3:54 p.m.

After continued outbreaks of whooping cough across North Carolina, state health officials are urging people of all ages to get immunized.

Whooping cough is a commonly used name for the highly contagious respiratory disease pertussis.

Through Aug. 14, state health officials had tracked 346 cases of whooping cough, including 50 cases in infants, for whom it can be deadly.

Because of high numbers of cases in Davidson, Forsyth and Rockingham counties, the state has authorized their local health departments to provide vaccine at no charge to anyone, regardless of insurance status. 

The Post has requested numbers for Rowan County.

State law requires kindergartners and all students entering 6th grade to be up-to-date on the whooping cough vaccine before going to school.

“But as parents are getting their children ready to go back to school, it is also a good opportunity for parents to check on immunizations for the whole family,” Acting State Health Director Dr. Robin Cummings said in a news release. “Any adults or older siblings, especially those who will be around newborns, should be vaccinated against pertussis.”

Infants who are not fully vaccinated against whooping cough are susceptible to severe complications. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in infants younger than 1 year of age who get the disease, about half are hospitalized.  Of those infants who are hospitalized, 1 or 2 in 100 will die.

Infants can’t get the vaccine until they reach two months of age. So health officials say women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should be vaccinated, along with anyone who comes into close contact with infants younger than 1 year. That may include parents, siblings, grandparents and child care providers.

Sixth-graders have two clinics at the health department to receive the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. Those clinics will be held from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 and Sept. 25, by appointment only. Call 704-216-8786.

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