Washington state health officials declare whooping cough epidemic


OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state health officials have declared an emergency state action to slow the outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis.

The state's governor, Chris Gregoire, declared that emergency funds were made available Thursday to the state department of health to help curb the epidemic. According to disease investigators at the Washington department of health, 1,132 cases of whooping cough have been reported in the state through April 28, compared with 117 over the same time last year, with this year's epidemic on pace to reach as many as 3,000 cases. There were 965 cases reported in 2011. No deaths have been reported.

In addition to the emergency funds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved using federal funds designated for other immunizations to buy more than 27,000 doses of pertussis vaccine for adults who are uninsured or underinsured. Since the outbreak, such retailers and Rite Aid, Albertsons/Sav-On pharmacies and MinuteClinic, the retail clinic operator owned by CVS Caremark, have increased the availability of the Tdap vaccine against whooping cough at its locations.

“I've been following the epidemic closely and the continued increase in cases has me very concerned about the health of our residents," Gregoire said. "I'm especially concerned about the vulnerable babies in our communities that are too young to be fully immunized. These actions will help state and local health leaders get vaccine into people’s arms so we can stem the tide."

Mary Selecky, the state's secretary of health, declared a whooping cough epidemic in Washington last month.

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