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Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil, MD, said Tuesday that New Mexico is seeing a significant increase in the number of pertussis cases statewide, and people can protect themselves and their families by getting immunized.
Dr. Michael Nichols of the Los Alamos Children’s Clinic said this morning that there has been one case in northern New Mexico and it was a child who attends Los Alamos Public Schools. The schools are urging sixth graders and their parents to get booster shots as soon as possible.
Pertussis is a serious bacterial respiratory infection that is highly contagious. It is also known as whooping cough due to the distinctive “whoop” sound that some people make after a fit of coughing.
“Already this year we have had more cases than we had last year,” Dr. Vigil said. “When we investigate cases, often we find that infants got the disease from their family members. Infants are too young to be fully vaccinated so they are more vulnerable to getting the disease and becoming very sick. We encourage all adolescents and adults to get the booster vaccine so they don’t get sick and pass the disease to others.”
There have been 96 cases of pertussis reported to the Department of Health so far this year, 48 of which have been reported since August. Of the cases identified since August, six are infants, 24 are age 1 to 18 years and 18 are adults. Twelve counties — Bernalillo, Chaves, Cibola, Eddy, Lincoln, Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Taos and Union counties ‚ have reported cases since August.
There were 94 total pertussis cases reported in 2009 and 85 in 2008.
Babies need an immunization series of three doses of pertussis vaccine plus a fourth booster dose to be fully protected by 15 to 18 months of age.
Seventh-grade students also need a booster dose of pertussis vaccine.
To help protect newborns who are not yet vaccinated, the Department of Health is piloting a nine-month cocooning project at Christus St. Vincent Regional Hospital in Santa Fe starting this year.
Cocooning is a practice of vaccinating all individuals that newborns will come into contact with during their early days to protect them from this harmful disease.
The Department has allocated more than 3,000 pertussis vaccine doses to immunize direct-care staff at the hospital as well as babies’ caregivers.
Vaccines are free for any child in New Mexico, regardless of insurance status, under the Vaccines for Children program. Most commercial insurances will cover necessary adult immunizations. Adults are encouraged to contact their provider or pharmacy plan for more information on receiving the vaccine for pertussis protection. Families with insurance should contact their provider for children’s vaccine. Children who have no insurance coverage can get vaccine at their local public health office.
“To control the spread of pertussis, the Department of Health recommends the following:
• Vaccinate all children younger than seven years of age with the complete series.
• Vaccinate adolescents 11 to 18 and adults 19 to 64 years of age with Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).
• Anyone with a cough illness lasting two weeks or longer and/or anyone who has unexplained coughing spasms should be evaluated for pertussis.
• Anyone diagnosed with pertussis and their household and other close contacts should receive antibiotics to prevent further spread of the disease.
• Anyone starting antibiotics to treat pertussis should stay home and avoid contact with all persons outside of the household for five days after starting appropriate antibiotics.
Contact the Department of Health to report all suspected pertussis cases. Consultation is available 24 hours a day at 505-827-0006 http://nmhealth.org/phd/phoffice.shmtl.