The Southeastern Utah Health Department indicates that Utah doctors have reported nearly three times more Pertussis (whooping cough) cases in 2005 than this time last year.
Currently Emery County, one of the 16 counties reporting Pertussis in Utah, has families dealing with the effects of this bacterial disease.
Pertussis is spread by having close contact with infected persons who may also be coughing or sneezing. The disease can cause serious illness, especially in infants.
Symptoms of Pertussis include violent coughing spasms, loss of breath, can lead to pneumonia, and may induce vomiting.
"This is serious and with the number of confirmed cases it is imperative that we work as efficiently as possible to reduce the spread of this vaccine-preventable disease," stated Southeastern Utah District Health Department officer, David Cunningham.
Because of the seriousness of the disease, some children whose parents signed a personal exemption form when they enrolled the child in school, are now being told that their children need to stay home.
According to the health department, the personal exemption form states that the guardian understands that if an outbreak of any vaccine-preventable disease occurs, the child for whom the exemption is claimed is to be excluded from the school or early childhood program for the duration of the outbreak/or threat of exposure. The child will be allowed back only when a health department representative is satisfied that there is no longer a risk of contracting or transmitting a vaccine-preventable disease.
"The trend we are seeing in Utah is very similar to the national trend," explains state epidemiologist, Robert Rolfs, M.D. "Pertussis is on the rise among adolescents and older adults.These groups have little or no immunity against Pertussis. They often don't recognize they have Pertussis if they get it and can spread the disease to infants."
Two new vaccines should give prevention efforts a boost because they are the first Pertussis vaccines to immunize people over seven years of age.
The immunity provided by vaccination against Pertussis during childhood does decline over time.That means most adolescents and adults are susceptible to Pertussis. Teens and adults who get Pertussis can give the disease to infants who are too young to have been fully vaccinated.
In May 2005, Boostrix, a Tetanus, Diptheria, and acellular Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, was licensed for use in individuals 10 to 18 years of age.
In June 2005, Adacel, a second Tdap vaccine, was licensed for individuals 11 to 64 years of age.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issued recommendations in June 2005 for the new Tdap vaccines, targeting adolescents as one of the primary groups for vaccination.The local health department and the Utah Department of Health endorses the following recommendations:
Adolescents 11 and 12 years of age should be given Tdap vaccine in place of the tetanus-diphtheria booster.
Tdap vaccine should be given to adolescents 13 through 18 years of age who missed the Td dose at 11 to 12 years.
Adolescents 11 to 18 years of age who have already been vaccinated with Td are encouraged to receive a dose of Tdap to further protect against the dangerous Pertussis disease.
The Southeastern Utah District Health Department encourages parents tovaccinate adolescents with the Tdap vaccine and reminds parents to vaccinate infants on time. Infants typically get the Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine at 2, 4, 6 and 12 months of age.
For more information on Pertussis or Pertussis vaccines, contact your local public health department, or the Immunization Hotline at 1-800-275-0659. For additional information, contact the National Immunization Program at: http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vaccine/tdap/default.htm