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The Current Whooping Cough Epidemic

Whooping cough has been thought to be a health problem of the past. The continual coughing spells with the high-pitched, tell-tale "whoop" after them can be carried by anyone, but causes the most damage in babies and young children. In recent months, more and more cases have been appearing, and in the states of Washington and Wisconsin, it has become an epidemic, with nearly 3,000 cases reported.

Already this year, nine lives have been lost to whooping cough, and thousands more cases are still being treated. The current outbreak of this highly-contagious disease, has been reported in   many other states including Arizona, Minnesota, and New York. 18,000 cases have been reported already this year, which is double the entire amount of cases seen last year. The number is also expected to climb and could exceed the record number of outbreak cases of 40,000 in 1959.

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a contagious disease that starts off with cold like symptoms. One may experience sneezing, runny nose, slight fever, and a general cough. Over a short period of time other symptoms may fade, but the cough will become more severe and painful. The disease causes uncontrollable coughing spells; during which one may not be able to breathe and can even injure themselves internally. While most people successfully recover from whooping cough, the disease can cause pneumonia, and in cases involving small children, it can even lead to death. It is caused by bacteria that aggravate the throat/nasal cavity and is easily spread by the continual coughing.

Vaccines were created to protect children from this potentially fatal disease. The original vaccine was discontinued in the 1990's, because of side-effects that were causing concern. It was replaced with a new vaccine that was formulated differently, but expected to be just as effective. At this point, researchers believe that the longevity of this vaccines series is not producing what was originally projected, as they are finding adolescents, who should still be protected by the vaccine, are actually contracting the disease.

It is true that most children receive vaccinations for assorted ailments, but there are also parents who decide that vaccinations are not the proper course for their children or their families. Surprisingly, statistics are showing that most current cases of whooping cough are not being found in children who didn't get vaccinated, they are being found in children who did.

With a possibly failing vaccine and widespread outbreaks of the disease, whooping cough may once again become a national health epidemic. Until then, adults and children should learn the symptoms of the ailment, so it can be quickly identified, as well as how it is spread and contracted to protect themselves as much as possible. While the numbers keep adding up, more research must be done in order to pinpoint exactly how this is occurring.


Sources: Wall Street Journal Reuters Rome News Tribune, Atlanta, GA WebMD
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