What’s Washington Doing to Stem Our Whooping Cough Epidemic?
A little over a month since whooping cough crossed the epidemic threshold in Washington State, political officials seem persuaded that the nagging cough is not going to go away on its own. Last week, Governor Gregoire announced that she’d be making available, along with $210,000 already allocated from the Department of Health, an extra $90,000 from the emergency fund to combat pertussis.
The funding will “strengthen public awareness efforts about the need for vaccination,” and more will stand ready in case the state needs to buy more vaccinations. Thanks to an okay from the CDC, federal funds will provide uninsured or underinsured adults with more than 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccine (the funds were originally intended for a range of immunizations).
To get ahead of the outbreak, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Mary Selecky want more help from the CDC than that. They’re asking for a team of disease investigators–Epidemic Aid – or “Epi-Aid” – investigators and epidemiologists–to help contain the cough. “In my 13 years as secretary this is the first time I’ve had to use the word ‘epidemic’ about disease in our state,” Selecky said.
Nearly three-quarters (819 of 1,132) this year’s reported cases of pertussis are from Snohomish, Skagit, Pierce, King, and Clark counties. Only twelve counties have remained free of whooping cough reports. Skagit is far and away the leader in the rate of infection, followed by Jefferson County, though in terms of absolute number of cases, Snohomish comes in second.