Ohio tops nation in whooping cough cases: CDC

Health officials in Warren County are urging the public to stay current with immunizations
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 8:01 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 10:58 AM EST
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WARREN COUNTY, Ohio (WXIX) - Ohio is leading the nation in whooping cough cases as a Greater Cincinnati health department urges the public to stay current with immunizations amid a local outbreak.

Fifteen cases of whooping cough, also called pertussis, have been recorded so far this year in Warren County, including 14 in the last month alone, compared with just one case reported in all of 2022, the county’s health department announced Wednesday.

A similar health department advisory went out in late October from neighboring Montgomery County, which includes the city of Dayton, after 44 cases were reported compared with a total of 13 last year.

Overall this year through Nov. 4, Ohio has reported 603 cases - a more than 415% increase over the Buckeye state’s 117 cases in the same time period last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not all Ohio counties are seeing significant increases, at least not yet. That includes Hamilton County, according to an agency spokesman.

Ohio Department of Health Director Doctor Bruce Vanderhoff is issuing a whooping cough warning after seeing a spike in cases in Warren County.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that spreads easily from person to person through coughing and sneezing. In many people, it’s marked by a severe hacking cough followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Before the vaccine was developed, whooping cough was considered a childhood disease. Now whooping cough primarily affects children too young to have completed the full course of vaccinations and teenagers and adults whose immunity has faded.

Deaths associated with whooping cough are rare but most commonly occur in infants, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Babies are at greatest risk for getting pertussis and then having serious complications from it. Approximately half of babies less than 1 year old who get pertussis need treatment in the hospital, the Ohio Department of Health says.

That’s why it’s so important for pregnant women — and other people who will have close contact with an infant — to be vaccinated against whooping cough, the Mayo Clinic advises.

So why are cases on the rise?

The Ohio Department of Health has this explanation on its website:

“There are several reasons that help explain why CDC is seeing more cases as of late. These include: Increased awareness, Improved diagnostic tests, Better Reporting, More circulation of the bacteria and Waning immunity. The bacteria that cause pertussis are also always changing at a genetic level. Research is underway to determine if any of the recent changes may contribute to the increase in disease. When it comes to waning immunity, it seems that the acellular pertussis vaccines (DTaP and Tdap) used now may not protect for as long as the whole cell vaccine (DTP) doctors used to use.”

After Ohio, the state of New York including New York City is reporting the second-highest number of cases this year, 495 through Nov. 4, according to the CDC.

Illinois comes in third with 306 cases, precisely half of Ohio’s.

The CDC lists Ohio in its East North Central region, which also is leading the nation with 1,074 reported cases, fueled by the outbreaks in Ohio and Illinois.

Like Ohio, Illinois reported dramatically lower cases in the same time period last year, 77, and is seeing a 297% increase so far this year.

The only state adjacent to Ohio that is seeing a huge spike in cases so far this year is Pennsylvania with 248 through the week ending Nov. 4, according to the CDC.

In that week alone, Ohio recorded 14 cases and Pennsylvania reported 13.

Pennsylvania reported 81 cases year-to-date in 2022 and is seeing a 206% increase this year.

By comparison, Indiana recorded 89 cases so far this year and 68 through Nov. 4 in 2022; Kentucky is up with 78 from 35 last year and West Virginia saw 19, up from 11 in 2022.

Michigan is actually down with 52 reported cases so far this year after reporting 67 through Nov. 4 in 2022.

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