The number of whooping cough cases in Utah has reached a level not seen for more than 60 years. The State Department of Health says there have been 851 cases of pertussis reported so far this year. The number of people with the bacterial disease already exceeds the total in 2006 when the last notable outbreak occurred. Health experts don’t know why Utah and the nation are seeing the worst outbreak of the disease in decades.
Theron Jeppson, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, told KUER,“It’s hard to definitively say why. There are some things that you can point to; certain people for whatever reason choose to not get immunized. A good portion of the 851 cases that we’ve seen come from individuals who were unimmunized.”
The Department has also noted that some people who contract the disease have been vaccinated. In fact, they are seeing higher levels of pertussis among 10 and 11 year-olds – when children are almost due for a booster shot.
“Just looking at that, it leads us to believe that the effectiveness of the vaccine seems to wane after about 5 years,” said Jeppson, “Those kids before they get that booster dose before the ages of 11 and 12, seem to have higher rates of pertussis.”
Jeppson said the most vulnerable populations are those under 1 year old - who are too young for a vaccine, and those who are almost due for a booster.