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Whooping Cough Cases Increase in Pierce County

July 8, 2010

Tacoma-Pierce County WA | July 8, 2010 | Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has received reports of Whooping Cough, known by medical providers as pertussis, in Pierce County. While the overall numbers for 2010 are lower than expected, the department is concerned about four confirmed and four suspect cases reported in this county within the last two weeks. Vaccine, for children and adults, is available to prevent this illness.

In the first half of 2010, several states reported increased numbers of reported pertussis cases as compared to the same period of time last year. In particular, California has reported at least 900 cases and 5 infant deaths due to pertussis as of June 15, 2010. On June 17, 2010, California declared a pertussis epidemic. Up to date information on the California epidemic can be found at

Pertussis can be prevented through vaccination. For children, the vaccine, called DTaP, protects against pertussis, diphtheria and tetanus. For maximum protection, children needs five DTaP shots, given at age: two months; four months; six months; 12 months (at least six months since the third dose); and, when a child starts schools, at 4-6 years old.

Physicians recommend boosters for adolescents and adults. This preventative vaccine has only been available since 2005. The vaccine booster, called Tdap, should be given to youth, at age 11 or 12 years. Adults who did not receive Tdap as a pre-teen or teenager should get a dose of Tdap instead of the Td booster (Tetanus and diphtheria only). Pregnant women not previously vaccinated with Tdap should receive a dose of Tdap before leaving the hospital or birthing center after giving birth.

Adolescents and all adults who live or work with infants or are trying to become pregnant should receive a catch-up vaccination against pertussis if they have never been vaccinated with Tdap.

While Pertussis can be prevented by vaccination, it is highly contagious and one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States. People infected with the bacteria usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the pertussis bacteria. Starting with cold-like symptoms, and maybe a mild cough, pertussis is often not suspected or diagnoses until a persistent cough with spasms sets in after one to two weeks of illness.

Pertussis is most severe for babies, who often catch the illness from a family member or other caregiver. More than half of infants less than one year old who get the disease must be hospitalized. Approximately 1 in 20 infants with pertussis get pneumonia (lung infection); and, about 1 in 100 infants will have convulsions. In rare cases, pertussis can be deadly, especially in infants less than 1 year of age.

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