True or false? Diseases like polio, measles and whooping cough no longer occur in the United States.
If you guessed false, you’re correct. Even though they are rare, polio and measles still can and do occur. Outbreaks of pertussis, or whooping cough as it’s commonly called, are now happening every year. From January to December 2011 Buncombe County alone saw 16 confirmed cases of pertussis, and over the first half of 2012 Buncombe has already seen 16 cases. These may seem like small numbers, but when we consider how easily the disease can spread and the serious consequences that can happen, the numbers are causing concern among public health professionals.
Pertussis is very contagious and passes from person to person through the air when a person with the disease coughs or sneezes. The illness is most serious for young infants under 6 months of age. For them, getting pertussis can mean the possibility of pneumonia, a stay in the hospital and even death. Parents, older siblings or other family members often serve as carriers of pertussis and can easily spread it to vulnerable infants and young children. As a result, it is recommended that all adults, but especially those who spend any time around young children, should get a one-time booster vaccine against pertussis.
Most children receive a series of vaccines to prevent pertussis and other diseases beginning when they are about two months old. Children are required to have another vaccine to guard against pertussis when they enter 6th grade. This vaccine is called Tdap because it protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. As mentioned previously, adults are also encouraged to get a one-time Tdap vaccine if they have not yet had it.
The greater the number of people who are vaccinated against pertussis, the less likely it is that pertussis will spread through our community. Because the disease spreads so easily, if a person gets sick with pertussis they can spread it to others around them very quickly before anyone recognizes it as pertussis and preventive steps are taken.
Be sure that your child has had the Tdap vaccine before school begins this fall. Students going into the 6th grade are allowed a 30-day grace period, but after that they are not allowed in school until they get the vaccine. You may take your child to their doctor to get the vaccine, or you may bring them to the Buncombe County Department of Health where:
There is no cost for required vaccines given to children 18 years of age and under.
No appointment is needed for the Immunization Clinic. We’re open Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We have convenient, free parking.
Our staff is friendly and helpful.
Note - You can expect a longer wait for the Immunization Clinic as the start of school nears. We suggest that you come as soon as possible to avoid the last minute lines.
To learn more about vaccines for school children and beyond, call 250-5096.