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Ask for a Tdap vaccine when you get your flu shot

PROVO, Utah (November 14, 2014) -- Pertussis -- also known as Whooping Cough -- is a highly contagious respiratory disease seen in children and adults. It is vaccine-preventable -- and it is making its way around Utah County.

"This is the time of year when we see an increase in cases of pertussis," said Dr. Joseph Miner, Utah County Health Department executive director. "We see it in schools and have reports of adults with this infection. For adults, it can seem to be just a bad cough that doesn't go away. For young children, it can be a very serious disease."

There have been 207 cases of the pertussis so far this year in Utah County. There were 258 cases in 2013.

Utah County
(Total Cases)
Utah County
(Rate per 100,000)
Utah
(total cases)
Utah
(Rate per 100,000)
US
(Rate per 100,000)
2014
Year-to-date
207
-
707
-
-
2013
253
45.1
1,033
45.5
7.7
2012
414
73.9
1,544
55.8
13.3
2011
165
29.4
618
23.0
6.0
2010
38
6.8
306
12.8
9.1
2009
55
10.1
357
8.6
5.5

Miner explains that people don't appreciate the seriousness of the disease and aren't as vigilant about immunizations, especially in adults. Health care providers also stop testing as much until there is an outbreak.

"Some people think that if everyone else is immunized in the community that means they and their family are safe not getting the vaccination themselves," said Miner. If everyone thought that way no one would be immunized. We all need to be immunized to protect not only our families but also other children -- especially to protect children too young to be immunized or those who have lost their immunity due to medical reasons.

"Parents have to remember as well that besides putting their own children at risk, they are a threat to everyone around them to potentially spread this deadly disease," said Miner. "And if an outbreak occurs in their children's school, their unvaccinated children can be told to stay home for two weeks or even longer."

Pertussis is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing which often makes it hard to breathe. After fits of many coughs, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breathes which result in a "whooping" sound. Pertussis affects people of all ages who are not current on their immunizations or who don't develop immunity through the vaccine. The most serious complications are seen commonly in infants and young children and can be fatal, especially in babies less than one year of age.

Children are first vaccinated against pertussis at two months of age, and receive three additional boosters before age two. A fourth one is given when entering school. They receive another booster in the seventh grade. "With time our immunity wanes," said Miner. "That is why teens and adults need to receive a booster at least every ten years. This is especially important for parents, grandparents, and other contacts of newborns. While adults don't tend to get as sick, they can expose young babies who can be especially vulnerable to severe complications."

Pertussis is caused by the bacterium Bordetella Pertussis. It can be diagnosed by a nose or throat swab test and treatment generally consists of a course of antibiotics and supportive care. Treatment may make an infection less severe if it is started early, before severe coughing begin. Treatment can also help prevent the disease in close contacts (people who have spent a lot of time around the infected person) and is necessary for stopping the spread of pertussis.

The Utah County Health Department, as well as most local health care providers, can offer a three-in-one combination vaccine (Tdap) that protects against not only pertussis, but also diphtheria and tetanus. "If you don't remember the last time you received a Tdap booster, it is probably time for another one," said Miner. "When you are getting your flu shot, it is a good time to ask for a pertussis booster if you need it."

For information on UCHD vaccine clinics, please see www.UtahCountyHealth.org/immunizations or call 801-851-7025. For information of pertussis, please www.cdc.gov/pertussis.