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Vaccine touted to avoid whooping cough

Reformulated tetanus vaccine also guards against bacteria that causes disease

Reformulated tetanus vaccine also guards against bacteria that causes disease

September 04, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

Adults and teens might be lacking adequate protection from what is often viewed as a childhood illness, pertussis - the highly infectious bacterial disease known as whooping cough, according to health officials.

Bordetella pertussis, the bacteria that causes pertussis, attaches to the lungs, producing toxins and inflaming the respiratory tract. The initial stage of the disease is characterized by sneezing and a mild cough, like a common cold. A high-pitched "whooping" cough comes in the latter stage of the disease.

Infants and toddlers are routinely vaccinated for pertussis, but the vaccination's effectiveness wanes over time, said Lola Russell, spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, the number of pertussis cases have risen among American adults and teens.

In response to the increasing cases, Russell said the CDC has recommended that people ages 11 to 18 receive a vaccine, a reformulated tetanus vaccine that also immunizes against pertussis. The director of the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services are reviewing a recommendation from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that pregnant women and adults receive the vaccine, Russell said.

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While the reformulated vaccine has yet to be adopted into universal use, it is available at the Washington County Health Department, said Ronald Keyser, clinical specialist and pediatrician.

Keyser said teenagers who've received tetanus shots within the last two years have most likely received the vaccine.

"There's been a terrific increase in pertussis cases across the country," Keyser said. "A lot of times people might have it but aren't showing any symptoms."

According to CDC data, the number of pertussis cases more than doubled between 2003 and 2004. In 2004 there were 25,827 pertussis cases - of them, more than a third occurred among those 11 to 18. Adults accounted for 29 percent of the total cases that year.

In 2003, there were 11,647 pertussis cases, more than double the nearly 5,000 cases reported in 1990.

In Washington County, there was only one case of reported pertussis in 2004, one unconfirmed case in 2005 and no reported cases yet for 2006, Keyser said.

Wider use of improved technology allows doctors to specifically detect pertussis, which also contributes to the increase in reported cases, Russell said. She said cases of pertussis often go undiagnosed.

In addition to receiving the vaccination, Keyser said people can prevent the spread of whooping cough by avoiding people with chronic cough and washing their hands well and often.

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