A shocking new study has confirmed what epidemiologists have suspected for several years. An outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, was spread by children whose parents had refused to properly vaccinate them against the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the last whooping cough outbreak was in 1947, when thousands of children and adults became infected and rapidly spread the disease. The latest outbreak in 2010 infected some 9,120 people, killing 10. A study showed that the concentration of cases were centered in areas where parents had opted out of mandatory vaccines due to personal beliefs.
What was initially baffling about the outbreak was the demographic of the new infected cases. An outbreak of an infectious disease would be expected in poorer areas where families had limited access to health care. This, however, was not the case. The affected families were all from higher socioeconomic backgrounds in affluent areas. It would take nearly three years of research to confirm the suspicions that these cases were tied to children who had not been vaccinated.
A Brief Overview of Whooping Cough
Pertussis is a highly contagious disease, characterized by violent and uncontrollable coughing episodes. These episodes make it hard for the person to breathe and can easily spread through droplets in the air. This disease can be fatal in infants, especially those too young to have been vaccinated against the disease. Pertussis can easily lead to infection in the lungs, pneumonia and long periods of hospitalization. The disease is called “whooping” cough due to the barking or “whooping” sound that the infected person makes when struggling to breathe.
Before the invention of modern vaccines, whooping cough was one of the leading causes of infant mortality in the United States. In the years leading up to 1959, the first year that the vaccine was widely available, children would die at a rate of 6,000 a year from this disease. Children who showed early signs of the disease were often quarantined, stopping the spread of the disease. Despite these efforts, limited medical technology made it difficult to treat and many children would die if even a few contracted the disease.
So when in 2010, children started contracting and dying from this preventable disease, it left epidemiologists scratching their heads. Nobody could figure out why we had a sudden uptick in infections in a disease in which vaccines are widely available.
Authorities at the Center for Disease Control are blaming the latest outbreak solely on the anti-vaccine movement that has been sweeping the nation. Endorsed by celebrity spokespeople who have erroneously linked vaccines to autism, many parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children. This leaves them defenseless against common diseases like diptheria, measles, mumps and pertussis. This movement has had widespread effects. In addition to the whooping cough outbreak, the anti-vaccine movement has been linked to outbreaks of chicken pox, influenza and other contagious diseases around the country.
One of the states hardest hit was Washington state, which reported over 2,100 cases of new pertussis infections. Washington is home to many highly educated knowledge industry workers who are well informed of the dangers of communicable disease. They have opted to ignore this information, leaving many children unprotected against these fast-spreading diseases.
Epidemiologists were stunned at the cases of whooping cough in teenaged children. These children between the ages of 12-14 made up the majority of new cases. Experts believe that this phenomena can be explained by the vaccine schedule set forth by the CDC.
Children are supposed to receive a booster shot at age 11 to supplement the vaccines they receive as infants. Because parents are opting out of the booster, older children are becoming the new face of the disease. These children interact with thousands of other children in school and extracurricular activities, spreading the disease to untold numbers of families.
In addition, because the bacteria has gone unchecked, the disease has started to mutate. This mutation has caused it to develop a resistance to traditional vaccines, making it harder to treat.
The United States has suffered from 48,277 new cases in 2012 and 17,000 this year alone–more than any year since 1959. Doctors caution patients that preventing this disease is as simple as a getting the proper vaccines to prevent a nationwide outbreak. Pregnant mothers are urged to protect their unborn babies by getting the vaccine in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Doctors also advise that parents follow the vaccination schedule and allow their children to be inoculated against this deadly disease. Pertussis is highly preventable. Vaccinate your child against this deadly disease.
In the news lately have been articles about a vaccine for whooping cough is failing to stop the disease alarming doctors and public health experts. Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) was supposed to have disappeared in the 1950′s.