Oklahoma is witnessing an outbreak of whooping cough with more people falling ill. Health authorities are urging all people over 7 years of age to get vaccinated against the disease.
There have been over 65 confirmed cases of the whooping cough in the state this season - a 50 year high. Oklahoma is worst hit due to a high rate of the disease in bordering states, including Texas, as well as Ohio. Texas saw 2,000 cases and California over 6,700 cases. 10 infant deaths have been reported in the state. Whooping cough, or pertussis can lead to fatal lung infection or pneumonia and even kill an individual. It is especially deadly in kids.
The early symptoms of the disease are similar to a common cold and it is most infectious before the onset of coughing. Initial signs are a runny nose, low-grade fever, congestion and mild cough. Within a couple of weeks the dry irritating coughing spells become severe and spasmodic and can progress to vomiting, severely affecting breathing, eating and sleeping. The violent bouts of coughing are accompanied with a distinctive ‘whooping’ sound while inhaling.
Laurence Burnsed, the state Health Department's communicable disease division director said, “The fact that we have bordering states that are seeing increases recently, that’s something we’re certainly aware of and are watching very closely… People need to be aware that pertussis is occurring throughout the US.” Susan Mendus, the state Health Department education director for immunization service stated, “We have to be careful in Oklahoma. We don’t want to see the kind of whooping cough that they’re seeing in California… The vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective. Out of 100 who get the vaccine, maybe 70 will develop strong immunity, 30 will have some immunity, but they can still get the disease. It won’t be as severe, but they can pass it along.”