According to King County Public Health, there have now been two cases of pertussis (whooping cough) reported from Mercer Island–and there may be more.
“Reported cases represent only a fraction of what’s actually out there,” James Apa, communications manager for Seattle and King County Public Health, said. “This is a statewide epidemic.”
Apa also said that because so many Island residents travel off-Island for work, it is hard to know how much disease exists here.
The KCPH website says whooping cough is highly contagious, spread through droplets of the mouth. As of June 16, there are 2,520 cases reported to the Washington State Department of Health, compared with only 179 at this point in 2011. The age group with the highest pertussis rate is 10-13 years old. In addition, Oregon, Idaho and British Columbia have all seen increases in pertussis cases this year as compared to last.
Infants and very young children are most at risk, as they can become extremely ill if they catch the disease. People who have whooping cough are urged to keep away from small children and pregnant women, who can pass it on to their newborns.
Everyone who is not up-to-date with vaccinations is urged to get the vaccine, as only 24 percent of persons older than 18 are up-to-date. Children are given a series of pertussis-containing vaccinations at a young age that are required for preschool attendance and K-12 school attendance; however, complete protection from pertussis is not ensured until all doses in the series have been administered. The final vaccine is the TdaP booster given at age 10 or 11.
Local pharmacies such as both Rite Aid stores have low-cost vaccines available for people who are currently uninsured or cannot afford it at a health care clinic.
“By getting vaccinated, you are protecting the vulnerable and yourself,” Apa said.
For more information about whooping cough and where to get a vaccine, visit www.kingcounty.gov/health/pertussis.