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Idaho sees ‘alarming’ rise in pertussis cases, vaccinations urged

Idaho is seeing an “alarming” rise in cases of whooping cough or pertussis, according to the state Department of Health & Welfare, and vaccinations are being urgently recommended, particularly with the looming start of school. Idaho's already had 241 cases of whooping cough reported to public health officials in the first six months of 2014, up from 122 in the same time period last year and 129 in 2012, both of which also were high; one Idaho infant already has died of the disease this year. “Whooping cough can be life-threatening for small children and infants,” said Mitch Scoggins, program manager for the Idaho Immunization Program. “About half of babies younger than a year old who get the disease need hospitalization. To protect them, their family members and others who have contact with them need to get vaccinated so they don’t pass the disease along.”

Health & Welfare is recommending that pregnant women and all those who come in contact with young children, including their siblings and other family members, get vaccinated. Click below for the full announcement from Idaho H&W, including recommended timing for children's vaccinations.

 

North Idaho, eastern Washington parents more likely not to immunize kids

North Idaho and eastern Washington share a grim distinction: Both have far higher rates of parents choosing not to immunize their children against childhood disease than either Idaho or Washington as a whole. As a result, health authorities say youngsters in the region are at increased risk for illnesses like whooping cough and measles - in early November, nine North Idaho children were diagnosed with whooping cough, also called pertussis.

“It's a personal choice that does carry consequences, and heavy consequences for some,” said Cynthia Taggart, spokeswoman for the Panhandle Health District, which offers low-cost immunizations in all five North Idaho counties. She noted pertussis can be fatal for babies, which is part of the reason that adults who come in contact with babies are advised to get pertussis booster shots.

In the North Idaho Panhandle, 7.4 percent of schoolchildren are exempt from immunization, compared to 3.8 percent statewide. That includes the 6.2 percent of North Idaho children whose parents cited only a personal exemption, rather than religious or medical reasons; compared to 3.2 percent statewide.  In Spokane County, 6.4 percent of schoolchildren are exempt from immunization, while in Stevens County, the figure is 15.3 percent and in Pend Oreille County, 15.4 percent. Statewide in Washington, 5.8 percent of children are exempted from immunization, the vast majority by parents citing personal reasons. You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.

Idaho whooping cough cases surge, vaccinations urged

Idaho has seen a sharp uptick in cases of pertussis this year, also known as whooping cough. The disease is most severe for babies, so the state is urging anyone who is around infants to get vaccinated with a pertussis booster vaccine, known as Tdap. “We urge parents, household members, and other caregivers to get vaccinated against this disease, to protect babies,” said Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist. “We know that in many cases, it’s the mom, dad, grandparent, or sibling that infects the babies that end up getting so sick. Vaccination of the rest of us remains the best way to protect the most vulnerable persons in our population, who are too young to be fully protected by their immunizations.”

Idaho had 77 reported cases of pertussis in the first six months of 2010, compared to 45 during the same time period a year ago. At the same time, California has experienced an epidemic of pertussis that has taken the lives of six babies. Adults who get the disease might not even know they have it; vaccination is considered the best prevention, but Idaho’s vaccination rates are among the lowest in the nation. Click here for more info from the state Department of Health & Welfare, and you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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