Even though the false theory about vaccination-related autism has been thoroughly debunked and discredited, the original article withdrawn and the researcher originating the myth having lost his medical license, the myth persists. As a result, many families still avoid vaccinations.
One of the sad results is this mistaken action is contributing to the resurgence of the incidence of some illnesses such as whooping cough, also known as pertussis.
From our own Clark County Health Department web site:
“Whooping cough has reached epidemic levels in Washington. Babies are at highest risk. Because they’re too young to get all their vaccines, it’s important that everyone else get vaccinated to protect them. All adults need one dose of Tdap if they’ve never had it before. “
Prior to vaccination availability in the US in the 1940s, pertussis was a scourge, contributing a high infant mortality rate. Tens of thousands of cases occurred annually, peaking at 250,000 reported cases in 1934. Following universal vaccination, incidence declined dramatically dropping to as low as just over 1,000 cases in 1976. However, in recent years the incidence is on the rise. Worldwide, 90 percent of the 30 million to 50 million annual cases of pertussis occur in developing countries. Approximately 300,000 cases result in death predominantly in infants (too young to have received vaccination) and unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children.
Complications of pertussis infection vary by age but can result in shortness of breath, chronic cough, pneumonia, seizures and death. The highest risk group is infants. Older patients may suffer chronic cough, broken ribs, hernias even hemorrhage and stroke.
The disease has three stages. Following a 7-10 day “incubation” period after exposure to the bacteria Bordatella Pertussis symptoms then appear in the first stage (catarrhal). It starts like a cold: malaise, runny nose and eyes, mild cough or sneeze; high fever is often NOT present. This stage lasts about a week and the patient is highly contagious.
Next, the second (paroxysmal) stage features severe coughing spells including the classic high pitched “whooping” sound patients make when gasping for air. The whooping is more commonly heard in children with their smaller airways. This stage can last several weeks.
The third stage (convalescent) completes the disease state and lasts 2-3 weeks with resolution of all symptoms, though if the patient catches another cold at this time the stage may prolonged.
While antibiotics can be used to treat patients and those in contact with the diagnosed patient, preventing illness and the risk of serious complications, makes sense. The safest and most effective prevention is vaccine. While no treatment is 100% risk-free, the safety of vaccines is remarkable: a recent study of more than 13,000 adolescents receiving the vaccine for pertussis found no increased risk of neurologic or allergic reactions.
Vaccines themselves are a great contributor to the increased life expectancy in the modern age. Educate yourself on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and check the vaccine schedules and catch-up schedules at the Center for Disease control website at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ . For more information on local resources for vaccines, check out the Clark County Health department web site: http://www.clark.wa.gov/public-health/.
Be well!

Dr Hoffman

Dr. Rebecca Hoffman is a Family Practitioner and works at Kaiser Permanente in Salmon Creek, which is in Vancouver, Washington. Interests include using diet and healthy living to stay healthy and attending to mental health and its physical manifestations. Personal interests include hiking, jogging, music (she plays the harp), dance, theater, storytelling and writing. She lives with her husband and two daughters.

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