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Epidemic continues in Snohomish County: Free whooping cough shots for adults, Feb. 25

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — In response to the ongoing whooping cough epidemic in the area, Snohomish Health District and Group Health Cooperative will offer free vaccine to protect adults from whooping cough, also called pertussis, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Group Health Everett Medical Center, 2930 Maple St., Everett. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are recommended by calling 425-339-8694 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Feb. 21-24.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is particularly harmful, and sometimes life threatening, to infants who have no immunity. More than half of infants younger than one year who get pertussis must be hospitalized. Children and adults become sick enough to miss school and work. Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last 10 weeks and longer. Individuals should see their health care provider or clinic for a booster shot, which is a single shot of combined antigens to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (Tdap).

So far in 2012, Snohomish Health District confirmed 105 reports of pertussis. The number of pertussis reports in Snohomish County began to climb upward in 2011, hitting a total of 225 confirmed cases, including an infant who died in August. The total in 2010 was 25. Fewer than 10 percent of adults nationwide are current with the Tdap vaccine.

The Health District and Sea Mar Community Health Center in Marysville vaccinated 328 adults in free clinics held on Feb. 4 and supported by The Everett Clinic Foundation.

“About 500,000 people in our community each need a pertussis vaccination in order to knock down this epidemic,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Health Officer and Director of Snohomish Health District, the local public health agency for Snohomish County. “The only protection we can give newborns is to vaccinate the people who surround them. Even if you’ve had whooping cough or the vaccine when you were younger, you still need the booster vaccine now.”

High-risk groups who need the vaccine include pregnant women in their third trimester, adolescents and adults who have close contact with infants, young children, or pregnant women in Snohomish County.

Learn more about the clinic, pertussis and the vaccine in at the Snohomish Health District’s Web site, www.snohd.org. Visit the site to download consent forms and vaccine information in Spanish and English.

The Health District purchased 320 doses of Tdap vaccine with a $10,000 grant from The Group Health Foundation. Additional vaccine was donated by Sanofi Pasteur. “We are grateful to The Group Health Foundation and Sanofi for helping us fight the spread of whooping cough through this special clinic,” said Dr. Goldbaum.

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