Whooping cough epidemic may be headed our way

CLARKSTON, WA - Whitman and Asotin counties are among two of six in the state of Washington that have not been touched by the recent outbreak of whooping cough.

"Chances are it could already be here," said Asotin County Health District Administrator Brady Woodbury . "It's likely that it is already here in the area."

Whooping cough is highly contagious and has already taken the lives of four Washington babies in the last two years. According to the Washington State Department of Health, more than 2,000 cases of whooping cough have been reported since the department declared the epidemic in April.

"The last time we saw numbers of cases like this in our state was back before vaccine was really widely unused in the 40's," said Washington State Department of Health Spokesman Donn Moyer. "It's very serious."

Washington state has seen more than 3,000 cases so far this year, which is almost 14 times as much as last year's 219 cases. The state now averages about 100 cases per week.

"It probably is around in the area," said Woodbury. "I would guess that there's probably been cases in the valley, but they haven't been diagnosed."

"There might be the possibility that we have pocket of unvaccinated people," said Asotin County Health District Public Health Nurse Lori Benton. "At this point in time, we don't think that there are, but you never know. We're worried that those people might be at risk or they might put other, people who are more vulnerable at risk."

The Washington State Department of Health encourages everyone 11-years and older to get the booster shot, known as Tdap, to help prevent the spreading of whooping cough.

"It's very hard to predict exactly when or if disease is going to show up in a particular county," said Moyer.

"I think we're ready to the extent that we're doing our best to prevent it from being any worse than it is, but I don't know if we're ready to have an epidemic of it here," said Woodbury.

Whooping cough vaccine is recommended for all children and adults and it's widely available at clinics, pharmacies and doctor offices.
To find an immunization clinic, contact your provider or local health agency.