Although the media has recently been less focused on Ebola, the disease is still impacting Africa and the death count now tops 7000.

Meanwhile, a new epidemic of a disease that was once thought well-contained by vaccinations may be occurring in my home state of California. The number of cases of whooping cough (pertussis) has skyrocketed this year.

Nearly 10,000 cases have been reported in the state so far this year, and babies are especially prone to hospitalization or even death.

…Whooping cough is cyclical in nature and tends to peak every three to five years. The last outbreak of the disease in California was in 2010.

But doctors are discovering that immunity from the current vaccine may be wearing off on a similar timeline. Medical recommendations suggest booster shots after eight years, but doctors are seeing kids who received a booster three years ago getting sick. Public health officials are considering an update to the recommendations to account for the dip in immunity seen after three years.

Plus, many kids in some areas aren’t getting vaccinated at all. The highest rates of whooping cough are found in the Bay Area counties of Sonoma, Napa and Marin, which also have some of the highest rates of parents who opt out of vaccinating their children.

Doctors believe these kids are the root of the current and recent epidemics.

Whooping cough feels like a cold at first, but an intense cough that develops later can produce a “whooping” sound. The disease is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It can be treated with antibiotics, but the drugs may not be effective when the illness is in the severe coughing stages. Whooping cough can last for weeks and is especially dangerous to infants under 1 year.

California isn’t the only state seeing jumps in pertussis infections.

In 2014, substantial outbreaks of whooping cough have been reported in places including California and Michigan.

The 48,277 cases in 2012 were the most reported since 1955. The number dropped to 28,639 in 2013. But through mid-August of 2014, there were 30 percent more cases than during the same period in 2013.

Michigan recently reported 70 cases in one city alone. Additionally, an Ohio school district recorded that 78 children were forced to stay home from school due to an outbreak. New cases have also been reported in Northern Idaho, Maine, and Wisconsin.

More details on the disease are offered in the video from the Mayo Clinic.

A while vaccinations are encouraged to stop the spread of the disease, investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson notes that, “it is likely the vaccinated population–not the unvaccinated population–is largely responsible for the resurgence in whooping cough.”

Specifically, Attkisson notes an article in The New York Times that reviews the findings of a study on vaccinated baboons.

Baboons vaccinated against whooping cough could still carry the illness in their throats and spread it, research published in a science journal on Monday has found. The surprising new finding has not been replicated in people, but scientists say it may provide an important clue to a puzzling spike in the incidence of whooping cough across the country, which reached a 50-year high last year.

The whooping cough vaccines now in use were introduced in the 1990s after an older version, which offered longer-lasting protection, was found to have side effects. But over the years, scientists have determined that the new vaccines began to lose effectiveness after about five years, a significant problem that many researchers believe has contributed to the significant rise in whooping cough cases.

The new study, published on Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers another explanation. Using baboons, the researchers found that recently vaccinated animals continued to carry the infection in their throats. Even though those baboons did not get sick from it, they spread the infection to others that were not vaccinated.

“When you’re newly vaccinated you are an asymptomatic carrier, which is good for you, but not for the population,” said Tod J. Merkel, the lead author of the study, who is a researcher in the Office of Vaccines Research and Review in the Food and Drug Administration.

Between the parents opting out of vaccines for their children and the number of unvaccinated immigrants reportedly streaming into this country, I predict 2015 will see another jump in whooping cough cases.


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