More states report rising pertussis cases

Aug 2, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Health officials in California recently reported another infant death from pertussis, as more states report rising numbers of pertussis cases.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services agency announced on Jul 29 that a 1-month-old baby boy died of pertussis on Jul 27 at Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego. The boy's death is prompting new calls from health officials for parents to have themselves and their children vaccinated.

Mark Sawyer, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital, warned in the county press release that infants are most vulnerable, because they are too young to get vaccinated. "That' why vaccinating caregivers is a priority. By protecting yourself from the disease, you also protect your baby," he said.

The new fatality raises to seven the number of California infants who have died from pertussis. San Diego officials said the death was their first since 2001. The county has received 266 reports of pertussis so far this year, surpassing last year's total of 143 and on track to break its record 371 cases reported in 2005. In mid July, California officials had confirmed nearly 1,500 pertussis cases, which it said could be the worst season for the disease in 50 years.

California health officials have said they believe gaps in tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine coverage is contributing to the rise in pertussis cases. Some parents have refused or not sought out the vaccine for their children, and some children and adults have not been fully vaccinated against the disease. However, the officials have also said pertussis in the state seems to be cyclical, with rises seen every 3 to 5 years.

The state's recent dramatic spike in illnesses prompted California health officials to recommend an adolescent-adult Tdap booster for anyone older than 7 who isn't fully vaccinated, including older people; women of childbearing age before, during, or after pregnancy; and anyone who has contact with pregnant women or infants.

Other states that have recently reported rising numbers of pertussis cases are Idaho, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas.

Michigan health officials said they first noted an increase in pertussis cases at the end of 2008, which continued in 2009 and into 2010, according to a notice posted on the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Web site. As of Jul 27 the state had received reports of 512 cases, compared with 902 cases reported in 2009 and 315 cases for 2008.

South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) said in a statement on Jul 7 that it had so far received 168 reports of pertussis, meaning it has already surpassed the totals for each of the past 4 years.

Texas officials have seen pockets of increased pertussis cases, particularly in the central part of the state, but Chris Van Deusen, assistant press officer from the Texas Department of State Health Services, told MSNBC News that the increasing number of cases isn't a statewide problem.

On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it has received reports of 7,342 provisional cases, compared with 8,295 for 2009, according to the Jul 30 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Other states that appear on track to exceed their last year's total include Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin, as well as upstate New York.

August is designated as National Immunization Awareness Month, a time when public health officials across the nation promote the importance of vaccinations, especially back-to-school immunizations for schoolchildren. Many health departments offer immunization clinics to make it easier for parents to ensure that children's vaccinations are current.

See also:

Jul 29 San Diego County press release

Jul 7 SCDHEC press release

MDCH pertussis information

Jul 28 MSNBC report

Jul 30 MMWR report

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