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Whooping Cough Cases Continue to Climb Statewide

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A follow-up on this post from last month about Vermont's rising incidence of pertussis — the Vermont Department of Health reported Wednesday afternoon that 26 new cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, have been confirmed in Vermont in the last six weeks alone, including 11 in schools throughout Chittenden County. These latest figures bring the statewide total for the year to 47, a number significantly higher than in recent years; Vermont averaged just 14 cases annually from 2008 to 2010.

However, this year's total is still lower than the annual total reported throughout during the decade between 1997 and 2007, when the average number of cases in the state each year was 164. The winter of 1996-97 was among the worst in recent memory, with 280 cases reported in 1996 and 283 in 1997. State health officials attribute the marked decline of pertussis since then to the approval of an adolescent/adult pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap), which became available in 2005.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease of the lungs that's caused by a bacterial infection. Anyone who has symptoms of pertussis should be evaluated by a health care provider. People with suspected or confirmed cases of pertussis should be kept out of school, work, and group activities until five days of antibiotic therapy have been completed. Household members and other close contacts of someone who has pertussis should receive antibiotics to prevent illness. 

School and child care entry laws in Vermont require multiple doses of a pertussis-containing vaccine, depending upon on the age of the child. When pertussis is identified in a school, officials usually send letters to other parents to inform them of the illness, describe symptoms of whooping cough, and encourage them to have children with symptoms seen by a doctor.

For more details on pertussis, visit the Health Department website at healthvermont.gov.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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