That is a headline I certainly thought I would never see, or write about for that matter. The comeback of pertussis as a prevalent disease is something I thought was near impossible in the United States, but thanks to some who have used less than good science to link childhood vaccination with other childhood problems, including autism, we have a declared epidemic.

I don’t say that lightly, because, as a parent, I would never wish for anything ostensibly used as a benefit to our children to cause them harm. I do however, know that, as someone who received all the suspected offending vaccines as a child, as well as having two children that received them, without any perceived problems, I must truly wonder if anyone is being well served by the removal of the vaccine regimen.

As a child, I knew of no one with autism. That is probably because then there was no disease by that name, but I know I knew of no one so affected during my early years. There is no doubt that autism is real, and on the rise, but I think we do a large disservice to the children not vaccinated, and the doctors, who certainly would always be dedicated to “first, doing no harm”.

Now, from a Yahoo article, I see that pertussis is back, causing death, and undoubtedly a great deal of anxiety for the parents of those unvaccinated children –

After 910 cases of whooping cough that have left five babies dead, California has officially declared the outbreak an epidemic. If that isn’t bad enough, the case load is 400 percent higher this year than last, putting the state on track to break a 50-year record. With an additional 600 pertussis cases currently under investigation, officials believe things are about to get worse. Those most at risk? Unimmunized or incompletely immunized babies, whose lungs are still developing.

“Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot,” California Department of Public Health director Dr. Mark Horton said Wednesday. A full regimen of pertussis vaccines includes shots at 15-18 months, along with a last round between 4-6 years. Additionally, health officials recommend additional booster shots at age 10 to 11.

According to Santa Clara Public Health Officer Marty Fenstersheib, the disease, which is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system, poses a significant risk to young children, whose parents mistake its symptoms for common colds. How do you know if your kid has whooping cough? First signs include runny nose, sneezing, mild coughing and low-grade fever, which evolve after 1-2 weeks into a dry irritating coughing spells. Spells sometimes, but not always, end with the distinctive “whooping” sound.

Of course, this recent outbreak calls into question whether parents who choose not to vaccinate children could be to blame. According to Kidshealth.org, the advent of the pertussis vaccine reduced the annual whooping-cough deaths in the U.S. from between 5,000 and 10,000 people to just 30 a year. Now, like the measles resurgence in 2008, which targeted children whose parents had refused to have their kids inoculated, whooping cough is back on the rise. Last year, the number of whooping cough cases spiked past 25,000, the highest level it’s been since the 1950s.

The debate around vaccinations has been especially contentious in the U.S in the last few years, as parent groups have rallied around the belief that vaccines can be linked to numerous ailments, including autism (a belief based on a study which has since been entirely retracted by the medical journal which first published it). Despite any hard proof, these groups persist in choosing not to vaccinate their children, a process which, Dr. Paul Offit says poses its own dangers, as detailed in last October’s issue of WIRED.

“The choice not to get a vaccine is not a choice to take no risk,” he says. “It’s just a choice to take a different risk, and we need to be better about saying, ‘Here’s what that different risk looks like.’ Dying of Hib meningitis is a horrible, ugly way to die.”

The article continues with things that can be done to ease the problem, and curb the looming crisis –

In the meantime, what can parents do?

• If you are worried that your kid might have whooping cough, see your pediatrician immediately.
• While neither getting vaccinated nor surviving the illness provides lifetime immunity, kids from ages 11-18, whose immunity may have faded, can be given booster shots.
• Because the disease is highly contagious (experts believe that 80 percent of non-immunized family members will develop whooping cough if they live in the same house as someone who has the infection) anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has pertussis should receive antibiotics to prevent spread of the disease.
• In addition, young kids who were given an incomplete immunization might require a booster dose if exposed to an infected family member.

It does look like action is the plan, and worrying about any deleterious effects from a vaccine that can prevent serious illness up to, and including, death is probably not the best action.

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sheeple As long as sheeple follow the crowd, we will have problems like this. Before you deny the protection afforded by a vaccine regimen, you should be sure of the facts, with unassailable proof of problems.


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