Whidbey Island largely dodges pertussis scare

The number of pertussis cases throughout Washington State have reached epidemic levels, but so far Whidbey Island appears to have been spared, Island County health officials reported.

“It’s epidemic in the state and the majority are in Snohomish County,” said Roger Case, Island County health officer.

“We’ve actually had fewer cases than normal,” he said.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious bacterial disease that usually starts with cold-like symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Within one to two weeks, however, symptoms increase to severe, even violent and rapid coughing fits.

The state Department of Health monitors pertussis cases in every county and has been providing weekly updates. As of April 21, 1,008 cases have been recorded statewide this year.

That compares to just 110 cases documented during the same period in 2011.

Counties being hit the hardest include Snohomish County with 201 cases, Skagit County with 199, Pierce County with 131 and King County with 114.

Most counties have between one and 50 cases and 12 counties have none whatsoever.

Although the state is reporting just 16 cases in Island County, Case said the number may actually be less, saying that he only knows of about eight. He warned that people still need to be careful and get checked out if they have a cough that lasts longer than one week.

“They call it a childhood disease but it affects everyone,” Case said.

Of the total 1,009 cases, 828 of those afflicted have been 18 or younger with the remaining 180 patients aged 19 or older. Case urged anyone who has not yet received a DTaP vaccination to receive the immunization.