Whooping cough spreads through NM

Posted at: 11/23/2012 3:10 PM
Updated at: 11/23/2012 6:28 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitnes News 4

Doctors blame the national whooping cough outbreak on parents who don't get their children immunized, and that's the case here in New Mexico, where nearly 700 cases of the disease are reported.

Two of the cases were fatal - a two month old baby girl in San Miguel County, and a four year old boy in Bernalillo County.

Doctors say nearly all of the cases could have been prevented with vaccination shots.

The whooping cough outbreak is the worst in half a century, with at least 36,000 cases across the country.

It's mainly little kids you have to worry about, and the chief symptom is that whooping, hacking coughing fit that seems like it just won't stop.

Get that kid to a doctor, fast. Millions of parents nowadays choose not to get their kids immunized, many of them remembering old stories of side effects in the distant past.

"It did have a lot of side effects," said Dr. John Iacuone of Lovelace Health Plan in Albuquerque. "It caused high fever, chills, fever seizures."

But that's ancient history. Medicine has come a long way, particularly the whooping cough vaccine.

"The last 20 years they've really refined that out of that vaccine, to where it's a very safe, very low side effect product, and so it's perfectly safe to get immunized," Iacuone said.

Immunization won't help a child who's already got the whooping cough. That child needs to see a doc and get on some antibiotics.

Doctors usually prescribe Erythromycin or one of its close relatives. It won't magically make the coughing stop, but it will shorten the duration of the illness and reduce the severity of the coughing.

Doctors used to think that a whooping cough immunization would last a lifetime, Iacuone said, but now they know it doesn't. He said grownups who are around babies and little children need a booster shot.