Parents beware, Onondaga County sees fivefold increase in whooping cough

Dr. Jana Shaw

Whooping cough is making a comeback in New York State with a significant increase in Onondaga County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence of whooping cough or pertussis in New York State is 12.4 cases per 100,000 persons. That is above the national average of 9.3 per 100,000. Onondaga County has exceeded the statewide average as the number of cases is nearly 5 times higher than last year. So far this year, there have been 74 reported cases of whooping cough in Onondaga County, compared to 16 during the same time period in 2011.

The CDC reports that nearly 29,000 cases were reported through September 20, 2012 with 14 related deaths. In 2009, the CDC reported 17,000 cases nationwide.

In New York, 1,920 people outside New York City contracted the disease as of August 31st compared to 931 last year. Wisconsin is the hardest hit state with 78.6 cases per 100,000 population.

Dr. Jana Shaw, Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Golisan Children's Hospital in Syracuse, attributes the rise to the number of people who have not been immunized or are under-immunized against the disease. She says immunity "wanes over 5 to 10 years" so it's important that teens and adults renew their vaccinations. Shaw also points out that whooping cough is cyclical in that it reappears every 3 to 5 years.

Whooping cough is considered a serious and very contagious respiratory disease that is especially dangerous for young children and infants. It is characterized by violent coughing fits with a "whooping" sound when a patient gasps for aid.

In July, the New York State Health Department issued an an advisory asking people to receive vaccinations against pertussis in response to the growing incidence of the disease.