Whooping Cough on the Rise

Whooping Cough on the Rise

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Tonya Papanikolas Reporting The flu isn't the only sickness going around right now, you may be surprised to learn that whooping cough is on the rise, and it's not just a childhood disease.

Whooping cough, also called pertussis, can be painful, especially for young children. Most kids are immunized by the time they're five, but health professionals now know those vaccines wear off within 10 years.

Ilene Risk, Epidemiologist, Salt Lake Valley Health Dept.: “By the time they're an adolescent, they're no longer protected against pertussis. And adults aren't protected as well."

This is something a Salt Lake mom learned when her 14-year-old son was diagnosed last week.

Sherrie Carlisle, Son Has Whooping Cough: “Spencer had a cold, which we thought was a cold, except for the cough, it continued. It was to the point where he was coughing so hard that he would throw up or feel very lightheaded."

Symptoms may start out like a cold or flu with a mild fever. But if the cough lasts two weeks, there's a good chance it's whooping cough. Teens and adults don't get as sick as infants and can be treated with antibiotics. But the concern is they'll pass on the condition to babies or toddlers who haven't finished all their shots yet.

Ilene Risk: “Young children are much more likely to be hospitalized."

Overall, the condition is becoming more common. In Salt Lake County, 80 cases were reported in 2003. Last year, the number jumped to 192. And so far, this year is even worse. From January through March 2nd, the county has already seen 34 cases, compared to 14 last year.

Ilene Risk: “This really is a sustained increase, an outbreak really."

It’s something that definitely requires a doctor's attention. A teenage and adult booster shot vaccine has been submitted to the FDA for review. If approved, it may be available by the end of the year.

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