Feature

Health scare of the week: A whooping cough resurgence

The U.S. is on track for its worst year of whooping cough in more than half a century.

The U.S. is on track for its worst year of whooping cough in more than half a century. Cases of the disease have doubled since this time last year, causing nearly 18,000 people, mostly young children, to fall ill, and nine to die. Infants, who are too young to receive a vaccination, “get hit the hardest” by the disease, Mary Selecky, Washington state’s health secretary, tells the Associated Press. In the 1970s, childhood vaccinations nearly eliminated cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in the U.S. But in 1997, officials introduced a new version that appears to wear off more quickly than the previous one did. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends booster shots, but fewer than 30 percent of teens and 10 percent of adults have been getting them in recent years. Pertussis, which begins with cold-like symptoms and progresses to a suffocating cough, is highly contagious. To control the current outbreak, the CDC says it’s crucial that everyone get an updated vaccine, especially pregnant women and people in contact with babies under the age of 1. “There is a lot of pertussis out there,” warns CDC official Anne Schuchat, “and there may be more coming.”

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