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Published: Saturday, 9/25/2004

Doctors fear whooping cough spike

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Michigan and Ohio health officials are concerned about a rise in whooping-cough cases being seen in other states as well.

Michigan has had 103 cases so far this year, up from 63 cases at the same time last year. Ohio officials reported 400 cases this year. They had no year-to-date comparisons, but last year's final total was 328.

Tony Peyton, manager of Ohio's immunization program, said it's likely Ohio will end up with more than 400 cases by the end of the year.

Known clinically as pertussis, whooping cough is an infectious disease that usually occurs in children and results in spasms of

severe coughing, whooping, and coughing-induced vomiting.

The disease was once a common childhood disease. Before a vaccine was introduced in the 1940s, more than 200,000 cases were reported annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since widespread use of the vaccine began, annual incidence dropped to about 5,000 cases.

However, cases began to climb in 1990, and last year, the CDC reported more than 11,000 known cases of whooping cough, the most in 30 years. Last year, 19 people, including 13 children, died from the disease. In addition to Ohio and Michigan, other states reporting rises in whooping cough are Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, and North Dakota.

North Dakota, with a population of metropolitan Toledo, has reported 650 cases so far this year. Indiana has reported 87 cases so far, nearly double last year's total.

Many doctors and state health officials worry that a primary reason for the increases is a growing reluctance of some parents to get their children vaccinated.

Some parents feel substances in vaccines can cause autism and other problems, though the CDC says there's no link. Michigan and Ohio allow parents to decline vaccinating their children.

Toledo-area family physicians say they've seen more parents questioning vaccines, or opting out entirely. "Even in the six years I've been practicing since residency, I've noticed an increase," said Dr. Louito Edje, a Maumee family physician.

She said the trend "hits close to home" because she did some mission work in Africa in 1998 and saw death and severe illness can result when large numbers of children go unvaccinated.

Dr. Christopher Sherman, assistant director of Flower Hospital's family practice residency program, said "a lot more parents are asking questions," but he's seen no outright refusals so far.

"The more people we have opting their children out of vaccines, the more likely we are to see these childhood diseases that were once in decline slowly increase," said T.J. Bucholz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Contact Luke Shockman at:

lshockman@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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