There have been several serious outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) in the United States this year, far more than usual. According to the CDC, outbreaks typically occur in waves with peaks occurring every three to five years, but the spike this year is much greater than we have seen previously. This year's outbreak has some concerned that current vaccines may not be effective enough.
As of July 19th, nine babies have died from whooping cough and over 18,000 cases have been reported around the country. The state of Washington has declared a whooping cough epidemic and officials believe this is indicative of outbreaks that have or will occur across the country. We have already seen more cases this year than we had at this point in the past five years and if the trend continues, we could see the highest rates of whooping cough since the late 1950's.
Whooping cough is most dangerous in infants under one year old but can affect people of any age. An alarming number of cases have been seen in children ages 10 and 13 to 14. Health officials are working hard to figure out why the rates are so high in these age groups.
Children get vaccinated against whooping cough during infancy and early childhood and receive a booster dose between the ages of 11 and 12. Health officials are stressing the importance of getting another booster as an adult if you are pregnant or spend any time around infants. Because the illness is so serious and life threatening for babies, it is extremely important for anyone around them to be vaccinated.