Reported cases of whooping cough in Indiana are reaching the highest levels in nearly half a century. The Indiana Department of Health has found 409 confirmed cases of the disease, this year as compared to 392 in all of 2009. Whooping cough comes in three stages. First, normal cold-like symptoms set in for one to two weeks. Then, fits of coughing followed by a “whooping” sound or vomiting begin and can last up to ten weeks. The final stage is a lingering cough that lasts two to three weeks on average. ISDH epidemiologist Angela Cierzniewski says anyone can get it, but infants who haven’t been fully vaccinated and school-age children are at the highest risk.
“Part of the problem with the vaccine while it’s very safe and effective is the immunity tends to wane over time. So, when you get your last dose as a child you typically finish that up by 5 or 6 and then starting about 5 to 10 years later, your immunity starts to wane, Cierzniewski said. “So, by the time you hit high school and beyond, you don’t have a lot of immunity any more.”
A new state law this year requires all students in grades six through twelve to get a booster shot. Cierznewski says she thinks better testing procedures statewide may be part of the reason for the increase, but she still urges people to get a booster shot if they are eligible and to stay home if they’re feeling sick.