WA Governor Grants Emergency Funds for Pertussis Vaccine

The state Department of Health declared it an epidemic a month ago. Reported cases are on pace to hit 3,000 this year, more than triple the total of 965 cases in 2011.

One month after the Washington State Department of Health declared an epidemic of pertussis (whooping cough) is under way in the state, departmental disease investigators said 1,132 cases had been reported through April 28 -– meaning the epidemic is on pace for up to 3,000 cases this year. Last year, the total number of pertussis cases reported was 965.

Gov. Chris Gregoire on May 3 made $90,000 from her emergency fund available to the department and urged health care professionals to get vaccinated and vaccinate their patients. She said CDC has approved allowing health officials to redirect some funds to buy more than 27,000 doses of Tdap vaccine for adults who are uninsured or underinsured.

"I've been following the epidemic closely, and the continued increase in cases has me very concerned about the health of our residents," Gregoire said. "I'm especially concerned about the vulnerable babies in our communities that are too young to be fully immunized. These actions will help state and local health leaders get vaccine into people’s arms so we can stem the tide."

"In my 13 years as secretary, this is the first time I've had to use the word 'epidemic' about disease in our state," Secretary of Health Mary C. Selecky said. "Pertussis is very serious, especially for babies. It's vital that teens and adults are current on their immunizations because they're often the ones who give whooping cough to babies. We're headed for unprecedented numbers of cases. We've got to keep spreading the word to help prevent the spread of illness."

As of April 28, 2011, only 117 pertussis cases had been reported in Washington State. Pertussis is a contagious respiratory tract infection that can be prevented through vaccination -- the DTap vaccine for children and the Tdap booster vaccine for adolescents and adults.

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