FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 13, 2013
Vaccinations urged as Colorado whooping cough epidemic continues
DENVER – Responding to a recent surge in cases of whooping cough (pertussis), the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment today urged Coloradans to ensure they’re up to date on vaccinations. One hundred new cases of pertussis were reported in the second half of October.
In the first 10 months of 2013, 1,116 cases of pertussis were reported. Colorado has seen epidemic levels of pertussis over the past two years. The 1,494 cases in 2012 made it the state’s worst year for whooping cough, surpassing the 1,383 cases in 2005.
“Pertussis immunizations are recommended for all children and adults, but it is especially important for people who have contact with infants to be up-to-date,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the medical director of the department’s immunization section. “Infants are too young to receive the vaccine themselves and have a higher risk of hospitalization and death due to pertussis.”
“Unfortunately parents and other caregivers are commonly the source of pertussis infections in infants,” Dr. Herlihy said. “With national estimates suggesting only 12 percent of adults have received the recommended Tdap vaccine, we are missing too many opportunities to prevent these infections.”
Though the recent increase is widespread, the most of the new cases were in Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver and Jefferson counties.
Ideally, the vaccine should be received at least two weeks before beginning contact with an infant, to allow enough time to develop immunity. Infants should receive the pertussis containing vaccine, DTaP, at ages 2-, 4- and 6-months, and again between 15 and18 months of age, and children should receive a booster between 4 and 6 years of age.
The Tdap vaccine is recommended for:
• Children 7–10 years old who are not fully immunized with the childhood DTaP vaccine series
• Adolescents 11–12 years old
• Adults who have never received a Tdap vaccine
• Pregnant women at 27 through 36 weeks or pregnancy
• Parents/caregivers of infants under 12 months of age, including grandparents, babysitters and childcare workers
• Health care workers
• Others who plan on having close contact with an infant
Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract that spreads easily through the air in droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The illness often starts with cold-like symptoms, including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. The cough becomes more severe during the first week or two, and often is characterized by episodes of rapid coughs (coughing fits), followed by a high-pitched whoop, or a coughing fit followed by vomiting. The cough may last for a couple of months and is more frequent at night.