Whooping cough incidence spikes in 2012

Highly contagious disease claims the lives of 300,000 annually; free vaccine available across Israel.

May 7, 2013 23:14
1 minute read.
Children receiving medical treatment in hospital

Children receiving medical treatment in hospital 370 (R). (photo credit: Jorge Lopez / Reuters)


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The Health Ministry reported on Tuesday a significant increase in the number of babies who contracted whooping cough (pertussis).

The prevalence of the condition rose from 26.3 cases per 100,000 babies between 2007 and 2011 to 34.8 per 100,000 last year. The most significant increase was among babies before their first birthday – from 96 cases per 100,000 to 203 per 100,000 in 2012.

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A safe, effective and free vaccine for babies is available at baby healthcare (tipat halav) centers around the country. It is recommended that women get vaccinated after their 20th week of pregnancy, as what they received as babies (if they were vaccinated) only provides protection for between five years and a decade.

Women can make an appointment to receive the vaccine by calling *5400. If a pregnant woman receives the shot, she provides her baby with enough protection via antibodies through the placenta and umbilical cord, until the child is old enough to get the vaccine himself.

The highly contagious but preventible bacterial disease infects almost 50 million people around the globe, with about 300,000 of such instances resulting in death (mostly in the Third World).

However, common complications of the disease include pneumonia, encephalopathy (injury to the brain), earache or seizures.

The disease usually presents itself in mild coughing, but this develops into severe fits of coughing that includes a high-pitched “whoop” sound from the lungs, for which the disease is named. If a person is already infected, certain antibiotics can help treat it.

Most healthy adults and older children recover from the disease, but small babies are especially vulnerable to complications that can end in death.

The ministry said that the number of reported cases last year was 2,749 – 344 of them in children younger than one year. The average number of patients per year in 2007 to 2011 was only 1,945, with 151 of them infants up to the age of one.

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