Whooping Cough ‘Epidemic’ Could Become the Worst Washington has Seen in Decades

Whooping Cough is a highly contagious disease and according to health officials, has reached “epidemic levels” in the state of Washington.

By the end of March, that state had 640 cases compared to 94 last year at this time. At this rate, it could put Washington “on pace to have the highest number of recorded cases in decades,” according to the health department’s press release.

So far, there are no reported deaths. The last reported death from whooping cough was in 2024, where two people died.

The highly contagious disease is preventable through a series of vaccines. It is recommended children begin receiving the series as early as 2 months old and finish the round by the age of four or six years of age. Once the initial series of shots are completed, a child does not need to receive the booster shot until they are at least 11 years old. It is recommended to receive the booster every 10 years after that during adulthood.

A recent study that researched the outbreak in California in 2024 found that immunized children between eight and 12 years old were more likely to catch the bacterial disease than kids of other ages. This suggests the childhood vaccine wears off as kids get older.

“We have a real belief that the durability (of the vaccine) is not what was imagined,” Dr. David Witt, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Rafael, California, and senior author of the study told Reuters Health.

The study compared kids who got whooping cough aka pertussis, to the more than 22,000 kids in the medical centers database who didn’t. They discovered that the vaccine is effective about 50 percent of the time for all kids and only 24 percent effective for those between the eight and 12 year old group.

Witt points out that 24 percent is still better than no protection but would obviously like to see the numbers higher.

It has always been known by health specialists and officials that the vaccine’s protection fades over time and is why they recommend getting the booster shot as an adult. What they are discovering, is the vaccine is not as durable as they once believed.

Even with this new knowledge, it is still important to get your children vaccinated. Immunized kids who do catch whooping cough do not get as sick as those who did not.

Infants are at most risk of becoming seriously sick from the disease since they are too young to receive the vaccine. The CDC encourages adults and pregnant women to get the booster as a way to protect the infants, by preventing the adults to pass it to the young child

Public service announcements have begun to air in Washington state. The announcement features a mother who lost her baby to whooping cough last year. In 2024, 9,000 people were infected by whooping cough with it killing 10 infants in California.

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