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Whooping Cough Cases Hit the Northwest


The state of Washington is on high alert as whooping cough cases reach epidemic levels.

While there have been no cases reported in Oregon yet, local public health officials said Thursday that parents and those in contact with young children — especially infant — need to take extra precaution.

About 640 cases of the whooping cough have been reported in Washington in just the past three months. That’s over six times the number reported at this time last year.

The highly contagious disease spread through sneezing and coughing, that is not dangerous for healthy adults, but can be fatal to infants.

“Looks like a cold, cough, runny nose, fever, but then all of a sudden that cough becomes a barking cough and then a struggle to get air,” said NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman.

In 2010, California had a whooping cough epidemic, with 9,000 reported cases. Now, officials in Washington are scrambling to get people vaccinated.

Despite no outbreaks here, local health officials are encouraging people to do the same.

“It’s a really easy action to prevent whooping cough,” said Heather Kaisner, public health coordinator for the Deschutes County Health Department. “And that’s what we really want to encourage in public health.”

“If you’re a parent of a newborn or a grandparent, if you’re a childcare provider or if you’re around infants at all, everyone should have their Tdap vaccine,” said Kaisner.

Infants are too young to receive the vaccine, but health care practitioners say the most effective way to fight the epidemic is for adults and those of age to get the vaccine.

At Thursday’s health fair, held by the Deschutes County Health Department, the Tdap vaccine was given for free.

“I don’t in particular want to cough a lot, and I also didn’t want to give it to little children,” said Bend resident David Stetson, who took advantage of the free shots.

“I heard little children could die from whooping cough if they can get it, and it was free,” said Stetson.

The cost of some adult vaccines can be an issue, but officials say the Tdap vaccine is affordable and shouldn’t be a barrier.

“If you have no insurance or can’t afford the vaccine then you can come to our health department or any county health department and get the vaccine,” said Kaisner.

“The cost is just $15.19, but we never turn anyone away so that’s okay,” said Kaisner. “We really don’t want cost to be a barrier to getting this vaccine.”

If you weren’t able to make it to the health fair and are interested in the Tdap vaccine at a low cost, you can make an appointment with your local health department.

Right now, the Tdap vaccine is licensed for those 11 years and older, and is a requirement for seventh-graders in Deschutes County.

Officials urge you to check with your doctor to make sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Deschutes County Health Department

Phone: (541) 322-7400

Address: 2577 Northeast Courtney Drive Bend, OR 97701

Crook County Health Department

Phone: (541) 447-5165

Fax: (541) 447-3093

Address: 375 NW Beaver St, Suite 100, Prineville, OR 97754

Jefferson County Health Department

Phone: (541) 475-4456

Fax: (541) 475-0132

Address: 715 SW 4th Street, Suite C, Madras, Oregon 97741

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