Washington State Whooping Cough Outbreak

Washington State Whooping Cough Outbreak

Apr 16, 2015

More Vaccinations Needed to Slow Washington State’s Whooping Cough Outbreak

Spokane Regional Health District joins Washington State Department of Health in urging everyone, especially pregnant women, to get immunized

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539 or

SPOKANE, Wash. – April 16, 2015 – Whooping cough (pertussis) is on the rise in Washington state and health officials are urging people to get vaccinated against the disease, especially pregnant women, as infants are very susceptible to severe illness and even death from pertussis.

Pertussis is a serious disease that affects the respiratory system and is spread by coughing and sneezing. So far in 2015 there have been 319 cases of whooping cough reported in the state, compared to 49 reported cases during the same time in 2014. Although Spokane County’s rate comparisons are not as dramatic—12 cases have been reported this year, as compared with six in the same period last year—Spokane Regional Health District Health Officer, Dr. Joel McCullough, is still concerned about the increased number of pertussis cases around the state.
“With previous whooping cough and flu outbreaks, the numbers grew first in the western part of the state and after several weeks, Spokane experienced its outbreaks,” said Dr. McCullough. “If that is true for this round of whooping cough, the silver lining is that our community has time to prepare. Vaccination remains the best tool we have to protect ourselves and others from the disease, especially babies, who most often catch the illness from an adolescent or adult.”
Pertussis is cyclical and outbreaks occur every 3-5 years. Most cases are diagnosed in late-spring to early-autumn. The last outbreak in Spokane was in 2012 with a total of 198 cases, so it is not unlikely that another outbreak could occur.
Pertussis begins with a cough and runny nose. After one to two weeks, the cough worsens and children may have rapid coughing spells that end with a “whooping” sound. Adults may have less severe symptoms, but often have a cough which can last for many weeks. Pertussis has been called the one hundred day cough.
In addition to diagnosing and treating the illness, health care providers can help families determine if they have the highest recommended level of vaccine protection.
SRHD continues to partner with Spokane Public Schools and Group Health Foundation to hold free immunization clinics. Details for upcoming clinics are as follows:

  • Friday, April 17, 2015, 8:30 a.m.‐11:30 a.m. North Central High School, 1600 N. Howard St.
  • Tuesday, April 21, 3:30 p.m.- 6 p.m. Farwell Elementary, 13005 N. Crestline
  • Thursday, May 7, 4 p.m.- 6 p.m. Deer Park Elementary, 1500 E. ‘D’ Street

The clinics offer free administration of all required childhood immunizations for children ages 2-18, including the pertussis vaccine for children (DTaP), as well as a limited availability of no-cost vaccines for under insured or uninsured adults, including the pertussis vaccine for adolescents and adults (Tdap).
While the pertussis vaccine provides protection against whooping cough, the level of protection can decrease as time passes after vaccination. This means it is very important that children and adults have all the recommended doses for the best protection against whooping cough.
If an individual is around people at high risk for whooping cough, it is important to know that it takes about two weeks following vaccination to be fully protected. Getting vaccinated protects both the person getting the shot and other people around them at highest risk for complications, like babies and pregnant women.
For more information about whooping cough and where to get vaccine, visit More information can also be found on DOH’s web site at, or at SRHD’s web site offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.