A recent study reveals that the number of whooping cough cases in the State of Indiana have doubled in the past year. State health experts are urging parents to ensure that their children have been vaccinated.
In the first half of 2017, there were nearly 136 confirmed cases of whooping cough in the state, including one case that was fatal. In comparison, there were only 66 new cases reported during the first half of 2016 and there were no fatalities.
Whooping cough expert Dr. James Cherry from the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles says that while this spike in cases is somewhat surprising, there is no need to worry. He highlights the fact that whooping cough rates have been cyclical and on average they have have a tendency to peak every 36 months on average.
A study in 2016 did found a correlation between the rates of whooping cough and measles with vaccination rates but Dr. Cherry points out that many new confirmed cases have come to light because of better awareness among healthcare workers and improved diagnostic testing.
However, the project coordinator of the Biosafety and Infectious Disease Training Initiative at Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington, Aurora Le, states that the importance of childhood vaccination should not be undermined. She mentioned that both measles and whooping cough are two of the most preventable infectious disorders on this planet and vaccination has a very high success rate.
Dr. Le also mentions that in many outbreaks of whooping cough, the failure to vaccinate has been the primary cause. She recommends that healthcare workers should also be focussing on cough etiquette and hand washing in children who are infected.
Whooping cough, when mild, presents with symptoms similar to the common cold. In fact, most adults usually have no symptoms. However, whooping cough can also be severe and present with violent coughing spells that make it very difficult for the individual to breath. Even though the infection can be managed with antibiotics, the disorder can often last more than 12 weeks. In babies, the violent cough can also cause rib fractures and even death.
Unlike many other infections, whooping cough is very contagious and one individual can easily infect a dozen people from a single cough.
The last major outbreak in the US occurred in 2012 in Washington State where 1200 cases were reported. In the last decade, other preventable childhood infections, like mumps and measles have become more common as parents continue to question the validity of vaccines.