Whooping cough cases nationwide at 50-year high - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Whooping cough cases nationwide at 50-year high

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling this the worst epidemic of whooping cough the United States has seen in more than 50 years.

At Hills and Dales Childcare Center in Dubuque, spreading germs is an inevitable part of the learning process, childcare director Lis Ernst said.

"They get an opportunity to learn from each other: how to play, how to share, and along with that, they are sharing everything, along with their germs," she said.

The teachers there regularly engage the kids in hand-washing to teach good hygiene and prevent the spread of disease such as whooping cough.

"It's really a great learning opportunity because kids come right in, they go right to the sink and really enjoy the opportunity of doing it themselves, washing hands," Ernst said. "We also talk to parents about making sure that if your child's not feeling well to keep them home that day."

This isn't just about kids, however. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) says even though five- to 14-year-olds make up the bulk of the reported cases in Iowa, adults are the primary spreaders of the disease.

Nan Colin, Dubuque Visiting Nurse Association director, said there was no adult whooping cough vaccine until just a few years ago.

"We're concerned a lot of the time because of the fact that adults no longer have immunity. It's been years since they've been vaccinated," Colin said, "and so if they happen to be exposed and develop whooping cough, they can be a source of infection to children, particularly to very small children is what we're really concerned about."

The IDPH reports around 800 cases of whooping cough so far this year in Iowa. That's approximately five times the amount of cases reported by this time last year.

"It would be wonderful if all adults would be updated on their vaccines so they were immunized for whooping cough," Colin said. "That would go a long way to decreasing the number of cases of whooping cough."

According to the CDC, people who aren't vaccinated against whooping cough have eight times the risk of infection compared to those who are immunized.

Adults with the disease can expose a lot of people before they even go to the doctor because the symptoms in adults often just look like a bad cough.

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