Wed December 19, 2012

Whooping Cough Cases in Colorado Now at 64-Year High

Colorado is experiencing its worst season for whooping cough in more than six decades.  Statewide 1,407 cases have been reported as of Dec. 8 - a number not seen since 1948.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory infection characterized by episodes of intense coughing, especially in children. In some cases the cough is severe enough to cause vomiting or occasionally, to crack ribs.

Health officials say one of the reasons for the increase in cases this year might be the fact that current vaccines don’t last as long as previous ones.  

Dr. Mark Wallace, Executive Director of the Weld County Department of Public Health, says he’s seeing more cases of whooping cough in adolescents and adults, not just in young children.

“That would tend to support that we’re having immunity wear off as we get older,” Wallace says. “So I think what we’re recognizing is that we need to push hard to be sure that we get booster vaccinations in adolescents and adults.”

State health officials are recommending that, in addition to getting a flu shot this year, all adults and children receive the Tdap booster vaccine.  Wallace says only about 8 percent of adults in Colorado have received a booster, compared to an 80 percent immunization rate for children.

The disease often starts with cold-like symptoms including sneezing, low-grade fever and a mild cough that becomes more severe during the first week or two. Read more about pertussis (including symptoms, how it spreads and how it's treated) from the Colorado health department here [.pdf].