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9/5/2012

Free whooping cough vaccinations offered Sept. 6 and 13

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Don Strick, Public Health
Phone: (360) 397-8000 ext. 7307
don.strick@clark.wa.gov

VANCOUVER, WA -- Washington state and Clark County continue to experience an alarming increase in whooping cough (pertussis). The Washington Department of Health has declared an epidemic in the state, with 3,911 confirmed cases reported since January 1, 2012, compared with 387 cases reported last year. With children’s return to school from summer break comes an increased risk of the disease being spread. Whooping cough spreads easily through coughing and can cause severe illness in infants younger than 6 months.

In a coordinated effort to contain the spread of the disease, Clark County Public Health has partnered with Kaiser Permanente Northwest to provide free vaccinations against whooping cough for uninsured or underinsured children and adults throughout the summer. The first round of clinics vaccinated hundreds of community members in June. As the school year begins, a second round of clinics has been scheduled for September 6 and 13 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente Cascade Park Medical Office, 12607 SE Mill Plain Blvd. in Vancouver.

“We are especially concerned about children, teachers and educators contracting pertussis at school and potentially spreading infection to family members and younger siblings,” said Diana Antoniskis, MD, a Kaiser Permanente infectious disease specialist. “Babies are particularly vulnerable to this disease and most often catch whooping cough from a family member or caregiver, and the infection can be life-threatening. It’s essential that parents, teachers, students, health care workers and others who are in close contact with infants get vaccinated.” All adults and teens should receive the adult Tdap booster if they have not already received one.

“The uninsured are at particular risk of infection because many are not adequately vaccinated against whooping cough and other infectious diseases,” said Alan Melnick, MD, Clark County health officer. “We are pleased that Kaiser Permanente has joined our efforts to protect this vulnerable population and reduce the spread of whooping cough in the community.”

Pertussis is commonly known as whooping cough because of the “whooping” noise that comes with gasps for air after a coughing fit. This highly contagious bacterial disease starts with cold-like symptoms and often leads to severe coughing that can last for weeks. In rare cases, it can be fatal. Until vaccinations became widespread in the 1940s, whooping cough caused thousands of deaths each year in the United States.

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