When the latest lab results came back to Panhandle Health District Friday afternoon, nurses there knew their work was far from finished.
Nineteen more cases.
That makes 128 pertussis cases in North Idaho and one in Lapwai.
Four new cases of whooping cough - a 2-1/2-year-old boy and three adults - were identified in Spokane Friday. Three were reported Thursday. A fourth case reported Thursday turned out not to be whooping cough.
That means a total of eight cases, including one found early this week at a Valley day care center, have been confirmed in Spokane since the North Idaho outbreak None of the cases of Pertussis have required hospitalization.
Dr. Paul Stepak, epidemiologist with the Spokane Regional Health District, fears that’s only the beginning.
“I would not rest on my laurels or feel complacent about this single-digit number,” Stepak said Friday. “Exposure is probably widespread. There will likely be a lot of cases.”
The cases reported have different sources of exposure, Stepak said. The health district is busy tracking down those afflicted with whooping cough and evaluating people who may have been exposed.
“It’s rolling,” Stepak said with a sigh.
The outbreak has quickly outpaced North Idaho’s last pertussis epidemic in 1994-95. Then it took months to find the 163 people connected to that outbreak.
“We aren’t through an incubation period yet,” said Jeanne Bock, director of family and community health. An incubation period can last up to 20 days.
The health district first learned of the pertussis outbreak on April 1, following the death of a two-month-old Post Falls boy from the disease.
“We’ve caught this early,” Bock said. “We’re blanketing the community with antibiotics. We’re hopefully eliminating secondary infections. But we don’t know that yet.”
Those with the bacteria and not on antibiotics could still be spreading the disease.
Pertussis has been on the rise nationally since the early ‘80s. In 1993, 6,586 cases and 12 deaths were reported, the most since 1967.
This year, Idaho outpaced most other states for pertussis cases as early as March 1 - before the current epidemic was noticed.
By March 1, Idaho had 86 cases, second only to California’s 98 cases, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Phyllis Albee, Panhandle Health District’s coordinator of immunizations, said curing Idaho’s pertussis problem is going to take two things - high immunization rates and an adult vaccine.
“That’s the only way we can get pertussis under control,” she said. “If 90 to 95 percent of zero- to 2-year-olds were immunized, we wouldn’t see the rates of infection we see. An epidemic would be controlled sooner.”
Adults and children trade the disease back and forth because immunity wears off in teenagers and adults, and the only vaccine available is for children.
That vaccine is only effective 70 to 90 percent of the time.
, DataTimes MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition This sidebar appeared with the story: TESTING CLINIC The Panhandle Health District plans to open a pertussis testing clinic from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today. Five nurses from the Boise Health District are coming to North Idaho to help with the epidemic. The clinic is at 1111 Ironwood Drive, in a basement suite beneath Aesthetic SurgiCare Northwest.
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