6/24/12 N.C. Department of Health urges people to get whooping cough vaccine

N.C. Department of Health urges people to get whooping cough vaccine
By Caroline Hood The Times-News 6/24/12     
Reprinted with permission.

   Alamance County has seen a record number of cases of pertussis, or “whooping cough,” since last December, 122 cases in total.

   In response to the outbreak, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is making the Tdap vaccine, which protects against pertussis, available to anyone age 7 years or older, regardless of whether or not they have health insurance.

   The department is providing the Tdap vaccine to health care providers in the Immunization Program network, which includes all local public health departments and some public and private health care providers.

   The Alamance County Health Department is offering Tdap vaccines Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and again from 1 to 4 p.m. The vaccine is free and being offered on a walk-in basis, said Stacie Turpin Saunders, the health education supervisor for the department.

   Saunders also said pediatrician offices should be able to offer the vaccine to their patients.

   There have been 179 cases of whooping cough in 23 counties tracked by public health officials since December to the first week of June.

   In 2011, there were only 126 reported cases of pertussis in the state.

   Whooping cough is a highly contagious, but preventable, respiratory disease spread from person to person usually by coughing or sneezing. It starts out with regular cold symptoms such as a fever or sore throat and then develops into a cough that can last for several months.

   The Tdap booster shot is recommended for children ages 7 to 10 that did not complete the DTaP vaccination series and anyone older than the age of 10 who has not received a Tdap booster.

   Adults and teenagers are also urged to get vaccinated due to the high number of pertussis cases over the last six months.

   DHHS is particularly recommending the Tdap vaccine for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, anyone coming in close contact with infants under 12 months of age and anyone with a pre-existing chronic respiratory disease.