Over the past 70 years, public health has made significant advances in the fight against pertussis – better known as whooping cough. In the 1940’s, before widespread immunization efforts, there were as many as 147,000 cases of pertussis in the U.S. each year. After immunization began across the nation cases of pertussis declined, for examples in 1976 there were just over 1,000 cases reported in the U.S. However, since the 1980s, there’s been an increase in the number of cases of pertussis, especially among teens and babies less than 6 months of age. This has happened particularly because of waning immunity. In 2008 there were more than 13,000 reported cases in the U.S.
During the first half of 2010 many states have been reporting increased cases of pertussis as compared to the same time last year. Here in Ohio, there has been a slight increase of pertussis cases statewide, but the good news is that pertussis is preventable and treatable.
In efforts to reduce the spread of pertussis across the Buckeye State, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) added additional immunization requirements for school entry for 7th grade students. Beginning this fall, all children entering 7th grade will be required to have a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) or tetanus and diphtheria (Td) booster shot.
Pertussis is a serious respiratory infection caused by bacteria. It is a highly contagious disease that spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Pertussis is known to cause violent coughing fits that can last months. When an infected person gasps for breath, they make a “whooping” sound. This sound is where the name “whooping cough” comes from.
Symptoms can be different depending on your age and if you have been previously vaccinated. It is most dangerous in young children and infants. So far this year, no infants have died of the disease in Ohio. However in 2008, three Ohio infants died from the disease.
Vaccination is the easiest and most effective way to prevent the spread of pertussis. Ohioans and their families should make sure they are up-to-date with the recommended pertussis vaccines. If you are not sure, call your doctor to see what’s best for you and your family.
By requiring these additional vaccines in adolescents, ODH hopes to minimize the spread of pertussis in schools and provide Ohio’s children with a healthier environment to live, learn and play. This new requirement closely reflects recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and involved consultation of local health districts, medical providers, the state Medicaid program and school nurses.
The Tdap vaccine is widely available through many health care providers in Ohio, including family physicians and pediatricians. Additionally, the vaccine is available for children through age 18 at local health district clinics for no or low cost. Some local health district clinics also have Tdap vaccine available for adults at low cost..
For more information on pertussis or the Tdap vaccine please contact the ODH Immunizations department by phone at 1-800-282-0546 or by email at Immnuize@odh.ohio.gov.