LIMA — Citing a recent outbreak of whooping cough in Mercer County, local health professionals say it is important as ever for residents to get vaccinated for this potentially life-threatening disease.
Dr. Wilfred Ellis, chairman of infection control at Lima Memorial Health System, said 20 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Mercer County since Oct. 10. Though just three cases of the disease have been reported in Allen County this year, Ellis fears the disease could spread rapidly in our area if children and adults are not vaccinated.
“In Allen County, we’ve had an aggressive program for immunizations, therefore, our numbers are not as high for whooping cough right now,” Ellis said. “That will change if we don’t maintain high vaccination rates.”
Ellis said vaccination rates have waned nationwide in recent years due to reports that they can cause neurological disorders and autism.
“These reports have been refuted, and the fact is that this (whooping cough) vaccination is very safe,” he said. “The vaccine in its previous form did cause some neurological problems, but it’s been changed to a different vaccine that’s done very well.”
Whopping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that can be deadly for infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most deaths each year are in babies younger than 3 months of age. Since 2010, about 10 to 20 babies died from it each year in the U.S.
Though whooping cough is not life-threatening for adults due to their larger airways, Ellis said the disease could easily be spread to infants.
“Adults particularly are known to be carriers of the disease,” he said. “A grandma is going to want to pick that grandchild up, but grandma might have the bacteria and transmit it, not knowing that she had it in the first place.”
Ellis also recommends adults get a booster dose of the vaccine because immunity to the disease can wane over time.
“The vaccine should be utilized by all babies and all adults,” he said. “The disease can be totally eliminated with the use of vaccinations.”
Whopping cough vaccines are available at the Allen County Health Department.
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima