Gov. Chris Gregoire is reaching into emergency funds to help contain Washington’s whooping cough epidemic.
Gregoire said Thursday she will make $90,000 in crisis cash available to help strengthen a public awareness campaign about the need for vaccination. The state Department of Health is already looking to spend about $200,000 on the effort.
Gregoire also said the federal government is allowing the state to divert some federal money toward the purchase of 27,000 doses of the whooping cough vaccine. Those will be available for uninsured residents.
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. Health officials said the state is on pace to reach more than 3,000 whooping cough cases for the year.
That’s a level that hasn’t been seen in decades.
About 14 cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in Spokane County, said Dr. Joel McCullough, health officer for the Spokane Regional Health District.
The confirmed cases included infants, children and adults, none of whom required hospitalization.
In 2011, there were 13 cases, and none by the end of April.
“We’re definitely up,” McCullough said, and on pace for a record number of cases if the rise continues.
Most people never seek medical attention for their symptoms – which are similar to those of a cold – and get better on their own, he said.
“With pertussis, the number of confirmed cases is actually the tip of the iceberg,” McCullough said.
McCullough said Spokane County stands to receive some of the free vaccinations the state is allocating for uninsured residents, although he didn’t know how many.
In North Idaho, two cases of whooping cough have been confirmed in Kootenai County this year, said Cynthia Taggart, a spokeswoman for the Panhandle Health District. Two more were reported in Bonner County.
Both Kootenai County cases were in children. Last year at this time, Kootenai County had 20 cases, Taggart said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.