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King County Infant Dies of Pertussis

A pertussis epidemic in the state is ongoing, according to Public Health - Seattle & King County, and is still urging pregnant mothers and family members should be immunized to protect newborns and young babies.

A newborn King County child died from pertussis—commonly known as whooping cough—on Dec. 13, the first pertussis related death in the county in several years, according to a Public Health - Seattle & King County press release.

King County reports there are currently 752 confirmed cases of pertussis reported among King County residents, the highest number in over a decade and is still considered an epidemic in the state.

"These numbers are just the confirmed cases," said Public Health - Seattle & King County Hilary Karasz. "There are many more out there."

Out of respect for the family's privacy, most details about the circumstances surrounding this death are not being shared publicly.

Karasz said the most important message the county wanted to emphasize that pregant mothers should get a pertussis vaccine booster between 27-35 weeks of gestation.

"That way, there are enough antibodies that the mom can develop to give protection to the baby," she said. "There is a period of time when the baby cannot be vaccinated and this affords them an extra level of protection."

Babies can start to become immunized at 2 months.

Infants are at the highest risk for serious illness, hospitalization and death from pertussis. Fortunately, pertussis is preventable with a widely available vaccine. Women should be revaccinated with every pregnancy because protection is passed from mother to baby.

Assuring that all family members and other close contacts are up-to-date with their pertussis vaccine provides additional security, or a "cocoon" around vulnerable babies. Persons with cold or cough symptoms should stay away from babies because even people with mild symptoms can spread pertussis, influenza, and other infections.

In addition to women with each pregnancy, Tdap is recommended for all adults and teens 11 years of age and older if they have not received it previously. Children under 11 years should be up-to-date with their childhood pertussis vaccinations.

Pertussis Data for King County, WA:

  • Pertussis cases to date this year: 752 confirmed cases. Because not everyone with pertussis is diagnosed and reported, the actual number of people infected is even higher.
  • Deaths in 2012: The infant death reported in this news release is the first pertussis death in the County this year.
  • Number of hospitalizations in 2012: 12
  • Peak illness: Case reports are declining after a peak in May, 2012. The number of reports received each week continues to be higher than this time in 2011, and higher than the 5-year average for this time of year.
  • In 2011 there were 98 confirmed cases, 4 hospitalizations, and 0 deaths.

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