Whooping cough, also known as Pertussis, is highly contagious and spread by coughing. Newborns cannot be vaccinated, so the adults around them need to be immunized. That's why Governor Chris Gregoire is asking every person in the state of Washington to get a booster shot.
Dr. David Grossman, Medical Director of Preventative Care at Group Health, said with whooping cough spreading so quickly in Washington, every adult should be vaccinated, even if you're not around kids.
"As an adult you can have whooping cough, and then I can communicate it to my neighbor, who's got whooping cough, who then transmits it to his unvaccinated child," said Grossman.
For children under the age of five, they need five doses of DTaP vaccine, which protects them against three diseases: Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis.
Children 11-12-years-old should get a booster vaccine, called a TDap. Adults get the same booster shot. Check with your doctor if you've been vaccinated.
"If it can't be clarified, it doesn't hurt to get a second vaccine," said Grossman. "At this time the CDC is only recommending one whooping cough booster for adults."
Once you are vaccinated, it takes two weeks to be protected. You can get the vaccine at your doctor's office or at your neighborhood pharmacy and can cost anywhere between $40 to $100.
Some insurance policies will cover it - others don't, but right now, counties are working on programs to provide free shots to those who can't afford it.
While the whooping cough vaccine is required for students, some parents have filed for exeptions and opted out of vaccinating their kids, which Grossman believes is contributing to the epidemic.
"It's always been important to have your child vaccinated to protect them exactly against this type of situation we're in now," said Grossman. "We can never predict exactly when an epidemic is going to erupt. But we're in the midst of a whooping cough epidemic right now and if your child's not immunized, they could get severely ill."
It seems many people are getting the message. The number of people getting the Pertussis vaccine at Group Health keeps growing.
If you don't have health coverage and can't afford the shots, county health departments are making arrangements to provide shots at little or no cost for those in need. CLICK HERE to view free or low cost whooping cough vaccinations offered by county.
More vaccine information from the Washington Department of Health:
- DTaP or DT Vaccine, ages birth through 7
- TDap, ages 7 through 10
- TDap or Td Vaccine, ages 10 and up
- Free vaccinations May 9 in Darrington
- Free vaccinations May 12 in Burien