'Whooping cough' claims a newborn in Snohomish County

SNOHOMISH COUNTY —  Snohomish Health District reports the death on Aug. 16, of a newborn child from pertussis, or “whooping cough.” The Snohomish County infant’s illness brings to the number of confirmed cases to 52 reported in Snohomish County so far in 2011. The Health District reported a total of 25 confirmed cases of the illness for all of 2010.

“Our hearts go out to the family of this baby,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Health Officer and Director of Snohomish Health District. “The tragic loss of this little one’s life saddens us all.”

“It’s important to surround infants with a protective “cocoon” of immunity because a newborn is too young to be vaccinated,” said Dr. Goldbaum. ““If you or your children have been coughing for more than two weeks please call your health care provider and discuss whether you and your family should be seen and tested for whooping cough.”

Small children and infants are especially at risk of illness. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices at the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recently recommended fully immunizing women against pertussis during their pregnancies in lieu of waiting to vaccinate post partum.

The initial symptoms of pertussis appear as an ordinary cold, with runny nose, sneezing, and a mild cough. It progresses within two weeks and can persist for months to include severe coughing in fits or spasms followed by a whooping sound, and vomiting. Listen to the sounds of whooping cough here:

Of the confirmed cases thus far in 2011, 8 were infants younger than 1 year old; 8 were young children age 1-5; 19 were age 6-17; and 17 were adults. The cases occurred throughout the county. No schools have been closed for pertussis outbreaks.

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of reported cases in Snohomish County ranged between 21 (2006) and 47 (2008). In recent years, the rate of pertussis illness in the county was greatest in 2003, with 95 cases reported at a rate of 14.9/100,000 population. The lowest was in 2006, with 21 cases reported at a rate of 3.1/100,000. According to the CDC, 8,000 to 25,000 cases of pertussis are reported each year.

Immunization. The best way to prevent whooping cough is to get vaccinated. DTaP (diphtheria/tetanus/acellular pertussis) vaccine is administered at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, 12-18 months of age, plus 1 dose after age 4 years for a total of five doses. A Tdap (tetanus/diphtheria/acellular pertussis) shot for teens ages 11-18 years is routinely recommended. Adults age 19 and older should also be vaccinated with Tdap to supplement immunity that wanes over the years. Pregnant women and adults who have contact with pregnant women or infants under 12 months of age are especially urged to get a single dose of the Tdap booster. This includes parents, family members, child care workers, health care workers, and any others who haven’t received this vaccine.

Find additional information about pertussis at and

New immunization law for entry into schools and child care centers A new state law took effect on July 22 that changes the process to get an immunization exemption for entry into schools and child care facilities. The new law requires a licensed health care provider to sign the Certificate of Exemption for a parent or guardian to exempt their child from the immunization requirements. The signature verifies that the provider gave the parent or guardian information about the benefits and risks of immunization. A parent or guardian can also turn in a signed letter from a health care provider stating the same information. It only applies to exemptions requested after this date. A health care provider doesn’t need to sign the form for parents or guardians who demonstrate membership in a church or religious group that does not allow a health care provider to provide medical treatment or vaccines to a child. For more information about the new immunization exemption requirements go to


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