County hoping to keep cases at bay with vaccine program

County health officials are continuing to wage a war against whooping cough, attempting to hold back a regional rise in cases with a vaccine program targeted at uninsured adults.

The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County is asking uninsured adults to take a one-time booster, which officials hope will halt any spread of the highly contagious disease.

While Washington reached “epidemic” status with nearly 4,000 whooping cough cases so far this year, Oregon has not struggled as much. Still, with 679 reported cases as of late September, the state has doubled the amount of diagnoses it had in 2011.

There have been nine cases so far in Columbia County, mostly kids, said Public Health Immunization Coordinator Mary Altenhein.

“It’s a good idea for adults to have it,” Altenhein said about the vaccine. “It’s not out of control by any means, (but) it’s more prevalent this year.”

Public Health is offering immunizations on a sliding-fee scale. You can call 503-397-4651, ext. 2023, to make an appointment. The agency received extra doses from the state to hold the disease at bay.

Whooping cough is the common name for pertussis, a condition that causes severe wheezing and uncontrollable coughing fits. It often starts feeling similar to the common cold, but progresses from there. Children often have more serious cases of the disease.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says babies should get four vaccines at months 2, 4, 6 and again between 15 and 18 months. The agency says children between 4 and kindergarten age should also get a booster.

Adults around young children and babies should get immunized against whooping cough, Altenhein said, because they do not want to be responsible for passing the disease onto the children. She calls this creating a “cocoon of protection,” making sure everyone around the baby are free of communicable diseases that could spread to the child.

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