SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health had some disturbing news for residents Monday morning: Whooping cough infections are almost four times higher in Utah than the national average. State officials are attacking the epidemic with a new media campaign calling for vaccinations.
In 2012 Utah had close to 1,500 confirmed cases of pertussis — commonly known as whooping cough. In 2011, there were only 618, meaning infections increased by 142 percent over the last year.
There have already been 60 cases reported to UDOH in 2013, 39 of those reported in the first week of February alone.
Utah Health officials have said children under the age of 1 and children between the ages of 5 and 14 are being infected at the highest rate. Parents and caregivers are often to blame, according to officials.
"The majority of adult Americans don't get the recommended adult vaccinations, of which Tdap is one of those," said Salt Lake Valley Health Department Executive Director Gary Edwards. "Many aren't even aware they need the Tdap booster. Only 13 percent report getting that booster."
Children can't be fully vaccinated until they are 4 years old, making them especially vulnerable for infection. In an effort to slow the whooping cough epidemic in our state, public health officials are asking parents and caregivers to get the Tdap vaccine as a new ad campaign was unveiled.
Officials especially stressed the need for pregnant mothers to get the vaccine. The vaccine does provide some protection for the unborn child, giving them a little extra resistance as they come into the world.
Several parents of newborn babies were on hand to encourage others to get the vaccine so their babies are protected.
"Were just hoping everybody else gets out and makes sure they do it so I'm not stuck at home all day," said Lacie Bleak.
"I think it's great that were having this campaign because a lot of people aren't aware it's even an option," said father Matt Fergusson.
More information is available at StopWhoopingCOugh.org.