Health officials are reminding parents of a new vaccine requirement for teens entering sixth and ninth grades aimed at curbing the outbreak of Pertussis, or whooping cough, in the state.
Cases of Pertussis have been rising in McHenry County as well as throughout the state.
McHenry County’s outbreak started in August 2011 and continued to July 2012 with 384 cases reported, McHenry County Department of Health officials said. In a typical year, the county averages 20 cases of pertussis.
Kane County has seen 70 cases as of Aug. 6, compared to 54 all of last year, according to a news release from the Kane County Health Department.
Illinois has over 1,500 cases reported in 2011 in children under 18, up 40 percent from the previous year, according to state officials. The state ranks fifth nationally in whooping cough cases, according to a release.
The Illinois State Superintendent of Education endorsed the requirement. Students must provide documentation the vaccine was given or have an approved medical or religious exemption.
A Tdap booster shot has been recommended for anyone over 11 for several years, said Dr. Julie Morita, Medical Director of the Chicago Department of Public Health Immunization Program. Morita’s department joined with other county health departments, including McHenry and Kane Counties, under the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium.
Children under the age of 6 receive a vaccine against Pertussis however; health officials have found the vaccine’s effectiveness diminishes over time, Morita said.
“The vaccine is good and prevents the disease, but the immunity response decreases over time,” she said. “This is why there’s a recommendation for teenagers to get the vaccine.”
Pertussis is a serious disease, Morita said. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the disease, which can cause hospitalize or death for infants, she said.
“Diseases that have been practically eliminated in the U.S. are just a plane ride away, so while we are seeing near record low cases of some vaccine preventable diseases here, the viruses and bacteria that cause them still exist and are a threat,” Morita said.
Children age 11 and over and adults should get the booster shot too, Morita said.
“Making sure that children of all ages receive all of their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things that parents can do to ensure their children’s long-term health—as well as the health of friends, classmates and family,” she said.