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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: September 4, 2012


Whooping cough, or pertussis, is making a comeback across the United States. Delaware cases are on the rise. Twenty cases were reported from Jan. 1 - July 31 compared to 12 this same time last year. Reported cases represent the tip of the iceberg.

Delaware's Division of Public Health reminds community members that vaccination is the best protection against whooping cough. Children who never received any doses of the vaccine are at least eight times more likely to get pertussis than children who got all five doses of the vaccine before 7 years of age. Whooping cough spreads easily by coughing and sneezing. It is a very serious illness for babies and children.

"Each of us can do our part to stop the spread of whooping cough. All it takes is one shot," said Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh, DPH medical director.

During the first half of 2012, increased pertussis activity or outbreaks have been reported in a majority of states, and Washington state declared a pertussis epidemic in April. As of Aug. 11, 46 states and Washington, D.C. have reported increases in disease compared with the same time period in 2011.

More than 22,000 cases of pertussis were reported to the CDC through Aug. 11. Thirteen pertussis-related deaths have been reported during that same time period. The majority of deaths continue to occur among infants younger than 3 months of age. Children less than 1 year of age, some who may be too young to have received the vaccine, are at greatest risk of serious complications of whooping cough.

Adults should be vaccinated with Tdap at least two weeks before coming into close contact with an infant. A single booster dose of Tdap is recommended for all teens and adults 11- 64 years who have not previously received a dose (including those who had previously received DTP/ DTaP). Adults 65 and over who anticipate close contact with children less than 12 months and who have not previously received Tdap should also get a single dose. Multiple vaccines are recommended for children depending upon their age. Since 2011, a booster Tdap vaccination is also recommended for all pregnant women who have not received a dose in the past, preferably in the third or late second trimester, to protect newborn infants from severe pertussis.

Whooping cough symptoms include: runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. But after 1-2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. In infants, the cough can be minimal or non-existent but it can cause apnea. Apnea is a pause in the child's breathing pattern. If your infant or anyone is experiencing difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

For information on your vaccination needs, contact your doctor or call the DPH Immunization program at 302-744-1060. Delaware offers free and low cost vaccines for children who qualify.

Delaware Annual Total Pertussis Cases

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
27 16 3 11 18 13 12 29

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Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.