KNAU and Arizona News
5:49 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

AZ Health Department Cites Several Reasons for Pertussis Epidemic

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control report that the country is suffering from a Whooping Cough epidemic.

And health department officials in this state are not exactly sure why Arizona has the 11th highest incidence in the country.

Nationally, health officials say the country is on track to have the worst year for whooping cough, or pertussis, since the late 50s.

Nearly 18 thousand cases have been reported nationally so far this year.

That's more than twice the number reported at this time last year.

In Arizona we’ve had over 580 cases this year, making the state 11th in the number of reported cases nationally.

Dr. Karen Lewis, the Medical Director of the State’s immunization office, says it’s not clear why the increase.

She says the disease does run in a cycle creating higher numbers of cases every 3-5 years.

But she adds over the last 10 years, about two times as many parents have asked that their children not take part in the school shots regimen, which includes a vaccine for whooping cough.

And she says while the vaccine is available in many places, if you don’t have insurance, the $50-$70 cost could be prohibitive.

“If you’re not covered by insurance, it’s harder to go ahead and be convinced, if you don’t realize how bad pertussis is," Lewis said. "But if you’re a parent who’s seeing your two week old baby strangle because of whooping cough you realize it’s worth the cost.”

Whooping cough is highly contagious, and in rare cases it can be fatal, especially for very young children.

The CDC is urging adults and especially pregnant women to get vaccinated so that they don't spread the disease to infants.