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Health Officials Hope Vaccine Changes Will Curb Whooping Cough

Posted at: 11/15/2013 5:35 PM
Updated at: 11/16/2013 10:23 AM
By: Naomi Pescovitz

State health officials hope changes to vaccine requirements will help curb Minnesota's cases of whooping cough.

Starting next school year, the current tetanus-diphtheria (Td) vaccine required for seventh graders will be replaced with one that includes pertussis (Tdap), or whooping cough.

In 2012, there was an extremely high number of whooping cough cases in the state. Last year, there were 4,144 confirmed and probable cases.

So far in 2013, the numbers of cases has dropped substantially. There have been 859 confirmed, probable, and suspect cases reported. However State Senior Epidemiologist Cynthia Kenyon hopes the number will continue to drop.

"We're still seeing more cases than I'd like to see, but we are doing a lot better than we were last year. So I think there's still room for improvement, we certainly want those cases to come down even further," Kenyon said.

The new vaccine will impact 11 and 12-year-olds, an age group that has seen some of the highest rates of pertussis.

"If we can get vaccine into that group, that will bring those numbers down, and that will therefore impact the rest of the state's numbers because they won't be able to spread it as well," Kenyon said.

"Our hope is that it will decrease it, I think time will tell, we don't know for sure. But the hope and the reason for doing it is so that it will decrease it," said Ann Foss, Health Services Coordinator for Minnetonka Public Schools.

This week, Minnetonka Public Schools sent a note home to parents informing them that two seventh graders at Minnetonka Middle School- West had been diagnosed with whooping cough.

"Two cases out of 9 thousand-some kids is really minimal but it does raise our awareness... we want to notify the parents just so they can watch for the symptoms in their kids," Foss said.