Childhood diseases were well suppressed in the US from the early fifties through the turn of the century. It has become apparent however, that some of the old threats have returned in a major way. Colorado public health reports that incidence of Pertussis (also called whooping cough due to the severity of respiratory distress and violent coughing) has increased to nearly ten times its usual occurrence and they predict it will become worse before it is brought under control. Vaccines have been changed to what is termed a "safer but less effective" content. When epidemics broke out during the 20th century, mass vaccinations in infected areas were sometimes mandatory. We wonder if those days may return soon?
Seven weeks ago the newborn was in intensive care for 13 days. It all started with what doctors diagnosed as a common cold.
“I had him sleep on my chest and I felt him stop breathing. I flipped him over and he was purple,” Valerie said. “When I flipped him over I thought he had passed away.”
Warning signs from CDC during summer of 2012
Since mid-2011, a substantial rise in pertussis cases has been reported in the state of Washington. In response to this increase, the Washington State Secretary of Health declared a pertussis epidemic on April 3, 2012. By June 16, the reported number of cases in Washington in 2012 had reached 2,520 (37.5 cases per 100,000 residents), a 1,300% increase compared with the same period in 2011 and the highest number of cases reported in any year since 1942. To assess clinical, epidemiologic, and laboratory factors associated with this increase, all pertussis cases reported during January 1–June 16, 2012, were reviewed. Consistent with national trends, high rates of pertussis were observed among infants aged <1 year and children aged 10 years. However, the incidence in adolescents aged 13–14 years also was increased, despite high rates of vaccination with tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, suggesting early waning of immunity. The focus of prevention and control efforts is the protection of infants and others at greatest risk for severe disease and improving vaccination coverage in adolescents and adults, especially those who are pregnant. Pertussis vaccination remains the single most effective strategy for prevention of infection.
The CDC is trying to figure out what’s going on, but Dr. Schuchat said a couple of factors are clearly at work. The formulation for the whooping cough vaccine was changed in 1997, and kids hitting age 13 and 14 now are the first to have been fully vaccinated with five doses of the new vaccine. The new formulation causes less of a reaction, but it may also wear off sooner, Schuchat said.
Until 1997, the pertussis vaccine contained whole killed bacteria and it was extremely potent. But many doctors and parents believed the vaccine had an unacceptably large number of side effects. As a result, scientists developed a vaccine that contains only five proteins from the bacteria.