Pertussis outbreak in a vaccine-averse community in Florida

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455195407Over the past couple of years, we ve seen the re-emergence of a number of vaccine preventable diseases, mainly pertussis (whooping cough) and measles. And the majority of these cases are among individuals who have not been vaccinated. We reported earlier this summer on a pertussis outbreak in California, showing that the state is well on its way to a new peak in cases, with 800 new cases reported in the first two weeks of June.

Well, exactly one year ago, a community in Florida found itself in much the same situation. Many residents of Columbia County are anti-vaccination due to religious beliefs and many of the children were not vaccinated on the basis of religious exemptions. According to the kindergarten immunization records at the charter school where the pertussis outbreak originated, only five of 34 students were immunized with vaccines protective against pertussis. In the seventh grade of that same school, that number was only one of 22 students. Although the vaccine was made available free of charge at the health department, fewer than five individuals in the community received the vaccination at that time.

The health department investigated the outbreak and reported 109 cases; eight were confirmed, 61 were probable and 40 were suspected, with rates being highest among the youngest students.

According to the CDC, the bottom line is that it is going to be hard to control the outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases if community members refuse vaccinations. They urge physicians to report possible pertussis cases, even if not confirmed by tests, to public health departments.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan says, The bottom line is that there is absolutely no reason for parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated, as they are putting lives in danger by making these decisions. Primary care and other physicians should be speaking to parents about vaccinating their children and use this example, as well as others across the country, to make sure parents are aware of the risks of refusing to vaccinate their children.