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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Whooping cough makes a comeback -- and I got it



whooping.jpgWhen I read this story in Saturday's paper about how whooping cough had had its biggest year since 1955 a light went on in my head. So THAT'S why me, my teenaged son and husband had been coughing and hacking for the last three weeks.

Whooping cough ebbs and flows in multiyear cycles, and experts say there were at least 41,880 cases in 2012. The final tally is expected to be higher but is unlikely to surpass the nearly 63,000 illnesses in 1955, said Dr. Tom Clark of the CDC. Despite the high number of illnesses, deaths didn't increase. Eighteen people died, including 15 infants younger than 1.

But why would my fully vaccinated 14 year old have come home with it? Turns out the vaccine given to infants was revised in the '90s and the side effects were improved but the vaccine doesn't last as long. "This may explain why there are more whooping cough cases in older children," a public health notice from Washington state's health departnment notes about that state's recent outbreak. "Teens who are 13-14 years old today are the first group of kids to get only the newer DTaP vaccine as babies; they didn’t get any doses of the old vaccine."

Luckily, it's not as serious for adolescents and adults. It's most dangerous to infants and the elderly. But it's still not fun. It started off with my 14 year coughing so hard it made him sick. He coughed so much he bruised a rib. Then I started in, also coughing so hard it triggered a gag reflex. What makes it unusual is that it doesn't go away after a few weeks like most colds. I'm on Week 3 and still having a handful of coughing fits every day.

So check with your doctor about this. The Washington FAQ says children 11 and older should get a booster shot, as should adults if they didn't get one as teens.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Monday, January 7, 2013 6:48pm]


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