HEALTH ALERT April 11, 2012
Washington State is experiencing a large outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) this year. As of
March 31, 2012, there were 640 cases of pertussis reported, compared to 94 cases reported
during this time period in 2011 — an almost 600% increase.
Infants have experienced the highest rate of disease. Because Washington is our closest
neighboring state and so much travel occurs between our states, the Alaska Department
of Health and Social Services, Section of Epidemiology, is distributing this health advisory
to alert the general public of this situation.
All Alaskans should make sure that they and their children are up-to-date with their
pertussis vaccination, as this is the best way to prevent contracting and spreading this serious
disease. Children who are too young for vaccination are at the highest risk for severe disease and
death, and vaccinating adults and adolescents helps to protect this vulnerable population.
Signs and symptoms
Pertussis is spread from person to person very easily, and can be a very serious (potentially
lethal) disease in very young children. Initial symptoms include a runny nose, which leads to a
cough that can develop into a series of violent coughs, followed by a characteristic crowing or
high-pitched whoop sound. This is often immediately followed by spitting-up clear, thick mucus
Coughing can last for weeks to months. Patients with pertussis usually don’t have a
fever. Adults or infants less than 6 months old often don’t have the classic ‘whoop’ or
In infants and young children, especially those who have not yet completed vaccination,
pertussis may be very severe, resulting in hospitalization, seizures, pneumonia, and death.
Weekly pertussis update for Washington State 2012 year to date (YTD), cases reported
through the week ending 3/31/2012:
Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin: Recommended Immunization Schedule for Children Aged 0–
6 Years ― Alaska, 2011