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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A deadly disease is quickly reaching epidemic proportions across the country, and we are seeing cases of whooping cough rise in our area.
The Louisville Health Department says the city is on track to double the number of cases from last year.
Cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, are at their highest level in 50 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. More than 18,000 cases reported already this year.
"In Washington State, it's roughly ten times what they've seen in years past. Here it's roughly double what we've been seeing," explained Dr. Paul McKinney, Associate Dean of Research at the U of L School of Public Health and Information Sciences.
Public service announcements feature celebrities like racecar driver Jeff Gordon to spread the word about vaccinations.
The bacteria can be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing. Early symptoms look like a common cold. From infancy to early childhood, children receive five doses of the vaccine. Near the age of 11, they get a booster shot. It is that lapse between each of the shots that may be causing the epidemic -- children may not be fully immunized.
"Part of the problem seems to be the duration of immunity provided by the vaccine is not quite as long as originally hoped. Therefore people have to get repeated vaccinations for full coverage," Dr. McKinney explained.
Infants are most vulnerable, and can die from complications. Young adolescents around that booster shot age are susceptible too. Adults, especially pregnant women, should talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated. "You should be getting as an adult, a booster, tetanus, and diphtheria every ten years and if you've not had part of that cycle a vaccine including pertussis, then you should get that with your next dose."
McKinney adds that it is not only smart for pregnant women to get the vaccination, but it is a plus to ask family members who will be around your child, like grandparents, to get it, as well.