Whooping cough warning issued across Pima County

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The year is not over yet and Pima County health officials are issuing yet another warning about pertussis, or whooping cough.  So far this year, there have been 71 cases in Pima County, up from 46 in 2012, and 33 in 2011, according to Aaron Pacheco at the Pima County Health Department.

This year, most of the cases are concentrated in the Vail Unified School District, with 18 cases reported so far this year.

Tuesday, two more cases of whooping cough reported at Sycamore Elementary School.  Now, two schools in the Vail School District are following recommendations from the Health Department to make students who have not been vaccinated stay home from school.

"At Empire High School, we are dealing with about 12 students who are not allowed in school at this point, and at Sycamore, we are right around 24 students," said John Carruth, the assistant superintendent at the Vail School District. District-wide, Carruth says about 3-percent of students are not vaccinated.

Vaccinations are one reason University of Arizona Health Network's Dr. Sean Elliott says we are seeing an increase in whooping cough cases county-wide.

"Patients who are not vaccinated at all, don't have any imnulogic protection, their body's immune system is not prepared to fight off pertussis infection," Dr. Elliott said. "Some people have been vaccinated, but the immunity wanes."

Dr. Elliott says one Tdap vaccine for adults, or one DTaP vaccine for kids is all you need for coverage.

A second reason for a jump in cases has to do with what Dr. Elliott says is a cycle to infections.

"It's been three to four years since our last cluster in Pima County, so as I said several months ago, we are due for it," he said.

Whooping cough is highly contagious but is typically not life-threatening, except in the very young, and very old, Dr. Elliott said.

There are things doctors recommend you do:

First, confirm your vaccination status with your doctor.  If you, or your child have not been immunized, do so.  If you're feeling sick, stay home from work or school. And lastly, wash your hands and practice proper cough edict.

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