Friday, August 31, 2012
Pertussis cases still on the rise, vaccinations, boosters can protect children from virus
While children are required to be up-to-date on the highly infectious pertussis, or whooping cough, vaccine before beginning school, the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department is still urging parents to make sure their children are fully protected.
“Now that school is back in session, you have a lot of children in close quarters. It’s easily spread like flu viruses,” said Lois Davis, Lexington-Fayette County Public Health Nursing Manager. “The pertussis vaccine is part of the routine immunization schedule that’s given in infants. Most children, if they’re on schedule, finish that around age 2.”
However this initial vaccine requires booster shots when children enter school for the first time as well as at the sixth grade level, Davis said.
In 2012 alone, Fayette County has seen 53 confirmed cases of pertussis, more than double the number of cases from 2005-2011 combined, according to Davis. About a third of these cases are in children under age 12.
Adults should also be vaccinated at least once, particularly parents, grandparents or anyone who will be around infants and children. The Tdap vaccine for adults covers multiple ailments, including pertussis, Davis said.
Though Fayette County Public School’s rules require students to be up-to-date on all vaccinations before entering each school year, the strength of the pertussis vaccine may have decreased.
“They feel like some of the vaccines have weaned. I think they have changed the formula of the vaccine so it’s not as strong and you don’t have as many side effects as maybe you used to. It doesn’t seem to be lasting as long either,” Davis said.
Additionally, a small number of children in schools may not be vaccinated at all.
“I think we have 98-99 percent compliance in the schools. It’s always very high. However, we do have children who can’t get the shot for medical reasons, possibly an allergy to some of the components of the vaccine. We have very few, maybe one percent or less, religious exemptions,” Davis said.
If there were to be an outbreak in Fayette County schools, the small percentage of children who are not vaccinated would be exempt from school for their own protection from the virus, Davis said.
The virus gets its commonly known name from the dry, violent cough that makes a ‘”whooping” sound that it causes. If this cough persists in their child for a week or longer, parents are encouraged to see a doctor, Davis said.
Those who need to get a vaccine or a booster can visit their family doctor, or they can make an appointment with HealthFirst Bluegrass at the health department or Bluegrass Community Health Center. Additionally, the health department has an information line 859-231-9791.
More information about symptoms and pertussis in general can be found on the CDC website.