Whooping Cough's Comeback in 2012

CDC says 2012 was the worst year for whooping cough since 1955

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Whooping cough sounds like a thing of the past, an archaic disease that has been banished to the history books. But history tends to repeat itself, and whooping cough is coming back.

The most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 2012 was the worst year for whooping cough, or pertussis, since 1955. There were 41,880 cases last year, and public health officials say the disease's comeback might continue its upward trend this year.

"Vaccinate yourself and your children against whooping cough."

According to the CDC, whooping cough comes in cycles and peaks every 3 to 5 years. There can also be local outbreaks of the disease.

Whooping cough begins with cold-like symptoms, with a cough or a fever. It progresses to a severe cough that can last for weeks.

The whooping cough is so called for the “whoop” you make when you try to take a breath of air during a coughing fit.

But only your doctor can diagnose your cough as whooping cough, which can then be treated with antibiotics. That's according to Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, writing for PBS Newshour's blog.

Dr. Tom Clark, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed to a problem with the vaccine as the reason for the increase in cases. The vaccine being distributed now is not as strong as previous ones, according to the Associated Press.

Vaccination does not provide immunization for life, and protection gradually fades, wrote Dr. Schuchat. But if you get vaccinated, you are less likely to have a severe case of the disease.

Whooping cough has been back in headlines, as states declared the disease reached epidemic levels. In Washington, there were 4,744 cases reported compared to 807 during the same period in 2011.

Outbreaks hit Washington state, as well as Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin and Vermont.

But it's not just a few states that are responsible for the higher rates of infection. The CDC reported an increase in cases across 48 states in 2012.

Before a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, hundreds of thousands of cases were reported every year, according to the AP. After the vaccine, the peak year was 1955 with 63,000 cases.

So this past year is still far behind 1955. But it's a big jump from 2010, which had 27,550 cases.

The whooping cough vaccine is on children's vaccination schedule. But it's important for families to talk to their doctors about their own vaccinations when they have small infants who cannot get vaccinated and are vulnerable to the disease.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 4, 2013
Last Updated:
August 14, 2013