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Whooping-cough cases in Illinois hit 62-year high

Updated: April 18, 2013 11:26AM



Illinois had the highest number of whooping cough cases last year since 1950, the Illinois Department of Public Health said Wednesday.

Preliminary numbers show 2,026 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in Illinois residents in 2012. There were no reported deaths last year, department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said.

Pertussis, caused by a highly contagious bacterial infection, can cause violent coughing fits and the characteristic “whooping” sound when a person gasps for air.

Before pertussis vaccines became widely available in the 1940s, about 200,000 children got sick with it each year in the United States and about 9,000 died as a result of the infection, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Pertussis naturally peaks every 3 to 5 years, but nationally, the peaks have been getting higher and higher for the past 20 or 30 years.

That could be because of increased awareness of the disease, better reporting or more circulation of the bacteria, the CDC said.

But a CDC study suggests it also could be because of waning immunity for pertussis. That study showed the acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) now used by the CDC may not protect for as long as the whole-cell vaccine (DTP) the CDC used to use. Throughout the 1990s, the United States switched from DTP to DTaP because whole-cell vaccines were associated with more side effects.

The solution to protect against waning immunity is to get a booster shot. For a printable schedule of recommended vaccines, log on to http://www.idph.state.il.us/about/pgci.htm.



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