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Wenatchee-area whooping cough cases reach epidemic proportions

EAST WENATCHEE — With 31 cases of whooping cough reported in Chelan and Douglas counties, health officials are saying the disease has reached epidemic proportions.

“People should be taking action to prevent it from getting worse by getting their Tdap shots, especially those people who are around infants,” said Mary Small, director of community health and preparedness at the Chelan-Douglas Health District. “Infants are at highest risk for death and hospitalization.”

The shots are for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, which is also known as whooping cough.

At last report, in early May, the two counties had a total of 22 cases this year. In 2009, there were no cases of pertussis in the two counties; in 2010, there was one case; and in 2011, there were two cases and one probable case, Small said.

Of the 31 cases this year, seven are age 5 and younger, 19 are ages 6 through 14, and five cases are in ages 24 to 65.

The first pertussis case this year in Chelan and Douglas counties was reported April 6.

No one became critically ill in any of the local whooping cough cases, Small said.

As of last week, there were 2,325 reported pertussis cases in the state.

Prompting the epidemic, Small said, is the fact that vaccinations are wearing off in people who had vaccinations years ago. Another cause is that some parents are opting not to have their children immunized, “and those children can be carriers, too,” she said

Adults need a booster shot if they have not had one in the last five years, Small said. Children need boosters at age 11.

Small urged people who need boosters to get one from their doctor or at a local pharmacy.

People who are not insured can get a free booster at Columbia Valley Community Health’s walk in clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The clinic is at 600 Orondo Ave. Vaccinations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.

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