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Doctors warn of rise in pertussis in Valley

PHOENIX — Valley doctors are expressing concern over the nationwide outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, that has not spared Arizona.

“We have had one infant die of pertussis this year, and of course, that is one more than is OK because this is a completely preventable disease,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine with the Maricopa County Department of Health.

This year there have been more than three times the number of confirmed pertussis cases than in all of 2011, according to County Health.

“The most important thing to protect these infants who can die of this disease, is for parents and caregivers to vaccinated with pertussis vaccine so they can keep from spreading it to them,” said Sunenshine.

She said in a vast majority of cases where infants or young children get the respiratory illness, it was people in the home who gave them the disease.

Experts said the vaccine that people received as children tends to wear off over time. In turn, there has been much more disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last for up to 10 weeks or more; sometimes known as the “100-day cough and more than half of infants less than 1 year of age who get pertussis are hospitalized.”

“We strongly recommend that any parent or childcare giver get vaccinated to protect the children, especially the infants who are too young to get vaccinated,” said Sunenshine.