MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - In Skagit County, the rate of whooping cough isn't just a little higher than other counties around the state. It's three times higher than the next hardest hit county based on per-capita numbers.
The last official count places the rate of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, at 196.1 incidents per 100,000 people. That's way over the 71.7 reported out of Jefferson country. New numbers are due out from the state health department Tuesday aftrnoon .
Sandi Paciotti, the Communicable Disease Manager for the Skagit County Health Department, the numbers are real and, if anything, are low. Paciotti said the county has been very vigilant in screening cases and they're finding when doctors or schools report a case, often times five other people in the same household - adults as well as children - are sick.
It is by far the worst outbreak than anybody can remember. Dr. Frances Chalmers of Skagit Pediatrics has treated children for three decades. She says a lot of the cases she sees are in their early more treatable stages. A round of antibiotics usually knocks it out.
Paciotti said many people who have immunized are still getting the illness. She said typically 15 out of 100 people immunized are vulnerable to contracting pertussis, but she's finding 80 to 90 percent of the cases she investigates involve people whose immunizations should be current.
Whooping cough often starts with a sore throat and cold symptoms and leads to a debilitating dry cough, where adults and children can lose sleep. Extreme coughing fits can bring them to the point of vomiting. Pertussis can be fatal in infants and young children.
On Wednesday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m., Jean Enersen will host a Healthlink Special, “Whooping Cough Epidemic: Protecting Our Families.” The show will look into the outbreak and provide important information to help navigate this epidemic.