Whooping cough cases hit an all-time high in Vermont

Vermont is experiencing the most severe outbreak of whooping cough, or pertussis, in recorded history.

The Vermont Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed 293 cases of the highly contagious bacterial infection this year. And according to DOH spokesman Robert Stirewalt, that is a conservative calculation.

“We are probably over 300 cases now,” he said. “This is the most cases we have had in Vermont in one year since we started tracking it in 1980.”

Of those 293 confirmed cases, 72 occurred between Aug. 12 and Sept. 22 and almost half of those recent cases appeared in kids ages 5 to 18. Of the 72 recent episodes, Chittenden County had the highest incident rate with 17 confirmed cases, and Franklin and Lamoille counties followed up close behind with 14 cases each.

The last time Vermont had such a widespread outbreak of pertussis was in 1997 when 283 cases were confirmed. In 1996, 280 cases were reported, and 171 of them occurred in school-aged children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the illness.

Andrew Stein

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