Welcome to Washington, the Whooping Cough State

Chart indicating how pertussis has surpassed epidemic baseline in 2012
Chart indicating how pertussis has surpassed epidemic baseline in 2012

There are always winners and losers. Our recently dissolved state tourism board has dodged a negative publicity bullet. “Say WA“? How about “Say AHHHHH”? How would you like to persuade families to vacation in the whooping cough outbreak state? Seattle’s cruise ship industry can’t love this.

End of March 2012, the Washington State Department of Health announced that, technically speaking, whooping cough (pertussis) had reached epidemic levels. Now, almost a month later, the news is actually worse: “There have been a total of 1,008 cases reported statewide through week 16, compared to 110 reported cases in 2011 during the same time period.”

If that trend continues, for a total of 3,000 cases in 2012, it would mark the worst outbreak in 60 years in Washington, reports KING TV.

27 Washington counties have reported pertussis activity, with only twelve escaping it so far. As expected, babies are most susceptible: “Seventy-one infants under one year of age were reported as having whooping cough and eighteen of them were hospitalized. Of those hospitalized, fourteen (78%) were very young (three months of age or younger).” In terms of absolute cases, the leading age group is from five to thirteen years of age, with 449 children with whooping cough.

MyNorthwest.com’s Josh Kerns notes that “vaccines are available to all Washington children under 19 years old through health care provider offices participating in the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program.” By middle school and high school, the original pertussis vaccine will have started to wear off, so a booster shot is probably a good idea.

As always, California got there first. CNN notes, in their earlier story about Washington’s pertussis epidemic:

In 2010, whooping cough infected 9,000 people and killed 10 infants in California, in the worst outbreak in the state in 60 years. California passed a law requiring all students in the 7th to 12th grade to get the Tdap booster shot.

You can’t say you weren’t warned. The state’s department of health has been issuing alarms about the rise in pertussis incidence for some time; The SunBreak published a story last year on the trend, in mentioning the state’s leadership in parent-excused vaccinations. By February of this year, it was already clear it was going to be bad.