Whooping cough outbreak in Kansas spurs calls for vaccinations

06/13/2012 5:00 AM

06/13/2012 7:33 PM

A recent pertussis outbreak in Johnson County has Kansas physicians encouraging people to get vaccinated.

As of Monday, 175 cases of pertussis have been reported in Johnson County; 34 cases have been confirmed. So far this year, 56 cases of pertussis have been confirmed in the state, already surpassing last year’s total of 52.

Jennifer Schwartz, deputy state epidemiologist, says pertussis happens every year.

“It’s not uncommon to see them here and there,” she said. “We’re just seeing more this year, and most of them tend to be in Johnson County this year.”

So far, Sedgwick County has seen only one confirmed case of pertussis. Still, the county is offering free vaccinations to county residents without insurance who are at least 19 years old, and to parents and caregivers of children under the age of 6, with or without insurance.

The vaccination isn’t 100 percent effective, but it can make symptoms less severe should you contract pertussis, Schwartz said.

“Immunity tends to wane after a few years,” she said.

Pertussis vaccinations are required for all children before they can attend public schools, but exemptions for religious reasons are allowed. The vaccine is not required for adults, but a booster is recommended to restrict the transmission of pertussis to younger children without the vaccine, said Barbara Hersh, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, gets its name from the sound a patient makes taking a breath after violently coughing. The disease is spread person-to-person by coughing and sneezing. Symptoms resemble the common cold but include a violent cough that lasts for weeks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pertussis is cyclical, peaking every three to five years. In 2010, the last year data was available on the CDC website, 27,550 cases were reported in the U.S. Of those cases, 182 were in Kansas.

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