Whooping cough cases in many parts of area
PHILADELPHIA - February 7, 2012 (WPVI) -- The Delaware and Lehigh Valleys are seeing an upswing in cases of pertussis, or whooping cough. And health departments are stepping up their effort to make sure everyone is vaccinated.
There are 2 cases confirmed in Cherry Hill, one each at the Joyce Kilmer and Stockton elementary schools. And there are 2 other suspected cases in the district.
Interestingly, both confirmed cases are in children who were immunized. The vaccine is not 100-percent effective. But if a vaccinated child gets the infection, it is much less severe.
For kids who aren't old enough to get all their shots yet, such as infants, whooping cough can cause pneumonia, seizures and even death.
"For their own protection, for the protection of family members and aquaintances who may not be vaccinated," says Steve Walter, the chief of communicable diseases for the Camden County Health Department.
Cherry Hill school officials sent out a letter, advising parents and staffers to take preventive action.
The New Jersey Department of Health says infants under one year old, especially those under six months, are likely to have the most severe symptoms. They should be kept away from people with a cough, if at all possible. And infants with any coughing illness should be seen promptly by their doctor.
The pertussis vaccine isn't limited to children. A booster vaccine at age 11 is required by schools, and it is recommended for adults up to 64 years of age. Health experts say boosters are important for any adult in close contact with kids - such as babysitters, teachers, and school workers. Adults who gets a mild case of pertussis, which may seem like only a cold, can spread it to children, an be much more serious.
Virtually every county in the area has at least a handful of cases, or more, so far this winter.
Philadelphia says cases are running 3 times higher than normal, Chester County has had 18 cases, Bucks County has had 16, and Hunterdon County, New Jersey has had 11. Health department spokesperson Carl Rachel said the ages range from 4 to 20 years of age. In Montgomery County, there have been 5 since the start of the year.
Tentative figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health show 545 cases in the state last year. Cases have been rising in recent years, going from 270 in 2005 to a peak of 762 in 2010.
Health experts say a major factor in the rise are parental concerns about vaccine safety.
whooping cough, healthcheck
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