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Ed Yeates ReportingWhooping cough continues to hit Utah hard, in some counties up to three times the caseload over last year at this same time. Health departments are again strongly recommending teens and adults get a booster shot.
Unlike the other garden variety of respiratory illnesses we fight off every year, treatment for whooping cough or pertusis is effective only if given early, before symptoms are actually recognized as pertusis.
Think whooping cough is just an illness for kids? Try visiting the Attorney General's office. Paul Murphy started with what he thought was just a cold, then it got worse.
Paul Murphy, Office of Utah Attorney General: "I would start coughing and I would pass out. I would be sitting at my desk answering the phone, coughing, pass out. I would go to a concert, start applauding, start coughing, pass out. Go to a comedy club, start laughing, coughing, pass out. I was passing out 20 or 30 times a day."
The original pertusis shot we adults got as kids has worn off. By the time Paul was actually diagnosed with pertusis, he was well into a pattern, which for him would last a hundred days. While seldom life threatening for an adult, the illness is very dangerous for a small child.
Robert Rolffs, M.D., State Epidemiologist: "Through September we had almost 70 kids under two who had pertusis, and over a third of them were hospitalized with it."
Adults recover, often not even knowing they've had whooping cough, but not before passing it on to an infant who is still too young for the DPT shot. Besides flu shots, the State strongly recommends adults get the new pertusis booster the next time they renew their tetanus immunization.
Dr. Rolff: "If you're a mother or father or caregiver for a young child, those people would get the new shot, tetanus plus pertusis sooner. You can have it really as soon as two years after the last time they got their last tetanus shot."
Adolescents will get the new pertusis protection as part of the tetanus immunization package they normally get when they turn eleven and twelve.