SPOKANE, Wash. - Whooping cough in Washington State has become an epidemic, and while most cases have been on the west side of our state, it has now become an epidemic in eastern Washington.
This is Washington's worst outbreak in decades. Already this year, 18 cases have been reported in Spokane, which may not sound like much, but is tremendous in comparison to last year where only one case was reported.
Health officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated. Whooping cough or Pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that starts out like a cold, but then leads to severe coughing that can last for weeks, and in rare cases, can be deadly. Just last week, an infant in Idaho and one in New Mexico fell victim to this disease and shortly after passed away. Health officials worry that the numbers we're seeing are only the tip of the iceberg.
When we're looking at statewide numbers, 1000% increase over 2011, that's a pretty huge jump in numbers," said Mark Springer, an epidemiologist at Spokane's regional health district. "So, I don't want to understate the message that's coming from the state department of health about this being an epidemic."
The concern here is that adults and teens may be carrying the disease, and unknowingly passing it along to children and babies who are most at risk for complications. Washington has already seen about 12,000 cases this year and health officials worry it will spike to 3,000 by the end of the year.
The health district is only vaccinating adults 19 and older who are uninsured, or that their insurance does not cover vaccinations. If someone has private insurance that covers vaccine they are not eligible to receive a free whooping cough vaccine at our clinic on Saturday. We also are unable to vaccinate pregnant women. The Health District is offering the free shots on Saturday from 9am to 1pm at their office on College Ave.
If you have a baby less than one year of age, be alert for any respiratory illnesses with a fever. As an adult, if you have had a cough for longer than two weeks, please pay a visit to your local physician.