A deadly whooping cough epidemic is frightening California parents and causing copious finger-pointing. Potentially blamed for the pertussis outbreak are illegal aliens and non-vaccinating parents. In fact, there is another explanation, and no, you won’t like it either.
California Whooping Cough Epidemic
CBS News reports that currently there are 910 confirmed cases of whooping cough, and at least five infant fatalities related to whooping cough symptoms. Making matters worse, the disease has not yet run its course, and officials caution Californians that it will not get better for awhile yet. In fact, already, there are some 600 cases of suspected pertussis that are being investigated.
A whooping cough vaccine is available; it consists of three shots, and must be administered between two and six months of age. Subsequent boosters maintain childhood immunity. Missing a dose results in incomplete protection; even adults need a booster shot to sustain immunity.
In the past — as outlined by Kids Health — whooping cough leads to annual deaths numbering from 5,000 to 10,000 American residents. Since the ready availability of a whooping cough vaccine, this number was reduced to only about 30 deaths a year. Pertussis seriously affects the most vulnerable: infants under the age of six months.
It is noteworthy that the disease is not suddenly making a comeback. Indeed, ever since 2004, there has been a marked increase in confirmed cases. Since whopping cough is highly contagious, it spreads quickly in daycares and other similarly close-quarter environments.
Why a Previously Controlled Childhood Disease Makes a Comeback: Illegal Aliens? Parents who refuse to vaccinate their Children?
Who is to blame for the sudden spread of whooping cough? There are a number of finger-pointing theories. Posters to the CBS news reports hint that the influx of illegal aliens into California might be to blame. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), it is true that, as of 2000, some 2.2 million illegal immigrants resided in California alone.
Suggesting that, annually, about 73,200 new undocumented aliens cross the California border, it only makes sense that there is a sizable group of people who are very likely not able to receive vaccinations or provide their children with the needed immunity.
While the parents either live a shadowy existence or are spirited away to farms, factories and hospitality industry venues participating in the new arrivals’ virtual enslavement, the children join the school system. Whooping cough transmission is possible.
Another finger points at parents who refuse to vaccinate their children, in spite of the available whooping cough vaccine. The New York Times illustrated how the 2008 measles outbreak affected children intentionally left un-vaccinated.
One mother, who is afraid of the potential for side effects, is quoted as saying “I cannot deny that my child can put someone else at risk.” The same mother also states “I refuse to sacrifice my children for the greater good.” It stands to reason that this same sentiment also leads to a “no, thank you” attitude when the whooping cough vaccine is recommended.
When the Whooping Cough Vaccine Cannot Combat an Evolving Super Bug
There is another theory, however, which is equally viable but much more serious in its far-reaching results. Back in February, the New Scientist reported that pertussis was spreading in various countries considered to be industrialized nations and featuring a recognized whooping cough vaccine program.
Researchers now suggest that the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, which is present in numerous strains, now features two in particular that evolved immunity to the standard inoculations. Referred to asMT27 and MT70, the average whooping cough vaccine does not protect against these strains.
Ironically, it was a clamor for a change in the vaccine – due to the concern for side effects – that led to the creation of the current a-cellular version. This upgrade from the prior whole-cell vaccine led to the ultimate inability of the substance to combat the newly evolved super bug due to an intentional decrease in antigens.
It is unsure what this revelation will bring: a boost to the illegal immigration debate that might at least ensure adequate healthcare of children and adults? A further deepening of the rift between vaccinating and anti-vaccine parents, where one side points fingers and the other feels vindicated that the entire vaccination program is a sham? Or, perhaps a return to a less safe but ultimately more effective vaccine?
In the meantime, parents are urged to get their children the whooping cough vaccine, get a booster for themselves, know the whooping cough symptoms and get treatment for pertussis as soon as they suspect infection.