KDHE urging families to be vaccinated for whooping cough

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is urging Kansas families to get vaccinated for whooping cough (pertussis).

The state has seen a significant increase in pertussis cases in 2005, despite availability of new vaccine for older children and adults.

The increase in Kansas reflects what has been going on nationally and began in 2004.

As of Dec. 19, the number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Kansas has risen to 535, which is much higher than in previous years. Of the 535 cases, 269 are confirmed and 266 are probable cases.

Sixty-one counties are experiencing at least one case of pertussis. Four counties comprise 51 percent of the cases and they are Douglas, Johnson, Reno and Sedgwick.

Since Jan. 1, about 15 percent of all confirmed and probable cases have been in infants less than one year-56 confirmed and 21 probable cases-while 21 percent are in the 1-9 age group, 26 percent are in the 10-19 age group and 38 percent fall in the 20 and older age group.

“We urge families to get vaccinated for whooping cough, especially if they have infants in their home,” said Howard Rodenberg, director of KDHE’s Division of Health.

“With new vaccine made available just this year for older children and adults, we now have an opportunity to give the infants in the home added protection against pertussis at a time in their lives when it can be deadly.

“It is most critical that parents get their infants vaccinated for pertussis to prevent this difficult and highly contagious illness, which has already taken the life of one Kansas infant this year,” Rodenberg said.

One reason for the increased number in cases is testing capabilities have improved recently allowing for state laboratories and commercial laboratories to better identify pertussis cases.

KDHE has also increased its tracking of cases in recent years. In addition, once reports of a disease are on the rise, more physicians begin to test for it and people are more likely to contact physicians when they experience symptoms.

Also, pertussis is very contagious, so once it gets started in an area, it can spread very easily. It’s also important to remember that pertussis like many diseases is cyclical in nature accounting for spikes in case counts in certain years.

People can get infected with pertussis by inhaling contaminated droplets from an infected persons cough or sneeze or by sharing eating and drinking utensils.

A person with pertussis becomes contagious in the early stages of infection.

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