Whooping cough vaccinations encouraged as cases rise

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Whooping cough is extremely contagious. Florida requires all children to get vaccinated before they enter school.

There's also a vaccination for adults, and doctors say if they're around children, they should also get it.

Talley James said taking her 3-month-old daughter to get her first round of vaccinations Tuesday morning wasn't an option.

"Very important, very, very important," she said. "It can mean the difference between life and death."

James' mentality is one doctors hope all mothers have, especially with a recent outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

As of October, 32,000 cases of pertussis have been reported nationwide, including 16 deaths, most of them infants. The all-time recorded high was in 1959, when 40,000 cases were reported.

"It's dangerous. They've had a good number of hospitalizations at Wolfson (Children's Hospital) in the last couple years with whooping cough, and in severe cases it can result in death," said Dr. John Waidner, chief of pediatrics at St. Vincent's Medical Center.

Duval County ranks sixth in Florida for the most reported cases this year. From January to November, 33 confirmed cases of whooping cough have been recorded in the county, only up a few from the 24 cases reported last year. Hillsborough county leads with the state with 112 cases.

"We continue to have cycles of disease, just naturally peaks and valleys of disease, and then lately in the last 10 years in the United States there's been all this fear of vaccination, which has led to people not immunizing their kids, and they rise," Waidner said.

Symptoms of whooping cough can also mimic a cold or the flu, which is why Waidner encourages everyone to play it safe.

"The main thing is prevention, the importance of immunizing your kids on time and staying with the standard schedule, and probably equally important is for caregivers of children to get the booster shot," Waidner said.

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