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Monday, September 27, 2010

Whooping Cough: WaPo Notices

The Washington Post takes note of the whooping cough outbreak in California:

In California it is legal and quite easy to refuse vaccination, and the discredited theory that vaccines cause autism has created clusters of unvaccinated children. In affluent Marin County north of San Francisco, for example, about 13 percent of parents refused vaccination for their kindergartners in 2009, according to the state's Department of Public Health. Marin has one of the highest rates of infection this year.

Pertussis is more infectious than smallpox, polio or influenza, and it spreads quickly through the unprotected. It often escalates from what seems to be a regular cold into a severe respiratory infection that causes some patients to gasp for air with a distinctive high-pitched whooping sound.

But while shunning vaccine is probably playing a role in the epidemic, particularly in some areas of the state, it isn't the only cause, according to Kathleen Harriman, California's chief epidemiologist for vaccine-preventable diseases. Better detection explains some of the increased reports of pertussis. But Harriman and other experts worry that the epidemic could also point to serious problems with the current vaccines.