A Bit More on Pertussis

My story on pertussis this week didn’t focus too much on the cause of the recent uptick in whooping cough cases we’re seeing nationwide. Is it unvaccinated children? is it unvaccinated adults? something else?

Anne Polta did a wonderful examination of the question on her HealthBeat blog, and I recommend taking a look at it.

I do have to wonder if Minnesota’s recent uptick has anything to do with Andrew Wakefield’s visit. For the record, Wakefield’s “study” claiming autism is caused by vaccines was fraudulent and he deliberately falsified data for it. He is no longer permitted to practice medicine in the U.K. and his fraudulent “work” has been discredited in countless scientific fora.

North Dakota’s already seen more cases this year than it saw all year last year, but the really alarming numbers are coming out of Minnesota, where there have been 1,881 cases this year thus far.

I gathered the numbers for Minnesota’s pertussis cases for the last decade-and-change, all of which are available on the state’s Dept. of Health website. Here they are.

2012 1881 to date
2011 661
2010 1143
2009 1134
2008 1034
2007 393
2006 320
2005 1571
2004 1368
2003 207
2002 429
2001 308
2000 575

As you can see, and as I noted in my article, numbers for pertussis fluctuate quite a bit and there are plenty of ups and downs.

Yet this year isn’t just another “up.” The number of cases Minnesota has had in seven months has significantly outstripped the numbers from every other year since 2000. That’s the most recent year I had easy access to numbers for, too, so it might even go back further. I have no idea. However, this is definitely a matter for concern.

Part of the problem is that people are not vaccinating their children. Part of the problem is that adults are not getting vaccinated themselves.

I will (mostly) spare you the lecture on herd immunity and explanations of why it is critical that ordinary healthy adults stay updated on their vaccines, but I would like to note that whooping cough can be especially devastating to babies. Most people want to keep babies safe.

Health officials recommend that adults get a Tdap vaccination. People are supposed to get a Td booster every 10 years anyway, and Tdap takes the place of that, so you won’t even need any extra shots.

It’s virtually painless (the needle is ultra-tiny), most insurance companies pay for it and it’ll probably take less than half an hour. You don’t even need an appointment for it at some clinics.

And frankly, you don’t want to get whooping cough anyway. It sounds a lot like having the worst cold imaginable, and you can have it for more than six weeks. Having a minor cold for six days is bad enough for me, thanks.

2 thoughts on “A Bit More on Pertussis

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Kari. :)

    I had a Tdap booster about 4 years ago and it was no big deal at all. I’ve forgotten what it cost but I know it wasn’t very expensive.

    • I had a bit of an achy arm the next day, but really, it’s totally worth it to be able to hold a baby if I come across one. I remember the Td vaccine hurt a lot more, way back in the Dark Ages when I was in Junior High. Fair felt like my arm was going to fall off.

      These days you can barely feel the needle.

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