Whooping cough on the rise in state

Across the state of Washington this year, health officials have seen a large rise in whooping cough cases, prompting state officials to urge awareness.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 640 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in 23 counties and 100 in King County. Ninety-four cases were reported statewide for the same time period in 2011.

“We’re very concerned about the continued rapid increase in reported cases,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “This disease can be very serious for young babies, who often get whooping cough from adults and other family members. We want all teens and adults who haven’t had Tdap to be vaccinated to help protect babies that are too young for the vaccine.”

While there are no reported cases from Mercer Island, that doesn’t necessarily mean no one has had it.

“There are no reported cases in the first four months of the year for Mercer Island,” said James Appa, a public information officer for Seattle & King County Public Health. “But the caveat is that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of cases that go unreported and our numbers are simply those which have been reported, so it could be more. It’s an indicator of activity.”

Since pertussis is on the rise, health officials encourage everyone to check when they last had the vaccine, and to get it. The vaccine does wear off over time, so anyone who has had the vaccine and is 11 or older is encouraged to get the booster Tdap. The shot is especially important for anyone with close contact to babies younger than a year, as they are especially susceptible to the disease.

“Many adults don’t realize they need to be vaccinated, or they assume they have been,” said state health officer Dr. Maxine Hayes. “We’re asking everyone to verify with their health care provider that they’re up-to-date on vaccines. We’re also asking everyone to use good health manners — like cover your cough and stay home when you’re sick — that will also help prevent spreading whooping cough.”

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. It affects people of all ages, but is most serious for infants and those who are not fully protected. It causes cold-like symptoms followed by a long, severe cough that can last for weeks.

To learn more, visit and Seattle & King County Public Health at


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