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PHOENIX -- Gov. Janet Napolitano announced she is providing $500,000 in emergency health crisis funds to combat a statewide outbreak of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. The Arizona Department of Health Services sought the funds because of a significant increase of pertussis cases reported in Arizona this year.
To date, there have been more than 300 confirmed and probable cases reported this year, more than twice as many as last year. Most cases have been in Maricopa and Pima counties, but cases also are being identified in Arizonas more rural communities. Thus far, one infant pertussis-related death has been reported in Maricopa County.
The number of pertussis cases in Arizona has been increasing steadily over the last 12 months. Such a prolonged increase has not been seen in the last eight years.
To help stop the diseases spread, Napolitano signed an executive order releasing $500,000 from the health crisis fund to purchase newly available adolescent pertussis vaccine. The vaccine will be distributed to local health departments, which will provide immunizations to Arizona teens. Funds will also be used for laboratory equipment, epidemiological staff, and education and prevention efforts.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection that affects people of all ages, but is most dangerous for infants and toddlers. The disease begins with cold-like symptoms, including runny nose and a cough that becomes increasingly worse. The disease is named after the "whoop" sound children and adults often make when they try to inhale during or after a severe coughing spell.
Infants and young children are routinely given the DTaP vaccine, which is highly effective in preventing pertussis, but the protection from the vaccine decreases over time. A new booster vaccine was recently licensed by the FDA for 11-18 year-olds. Another vaccine is scheduled to hit the market later this summer that can provide a pertussis booster for individuals 11-65 years old.
Source: Arizona Department of Health