Pertussis Cases Spreading Across the US November 20, 2014 By Cait Hartwyk Leave a Comment The fall and winter months in the US see a rise in cases of the common cold and influenza every year, but a different disease has been making headlines recently as cases of pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough) have been on the rise across the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control, pertussis is a respiratory illness and a very contagious disease caused by a type of bacteria called Bordetella pertussis. These bacteria attach to the cilia (tiny, hair-like extensions) that line part of the upper respiratory system. The bacteria release toxins, which damage the cilia and cause inflammation (swelling). Part of what makes pertussis so problematic is that it is easily spread and is particularly dangerous for babies and small children. The disease is commonly spread when an infected individual coughs or sneezes while in close contact with another person. In many cases, the infants that contract the disease receive it from an older sibling or other family member who was infected. This makes pertussis vaccination even more important as a protection for the youngest members of society. The CDC has determined that the best method of avoiding pertussis is through vaccination, citing that while no vaccine is 100% effective, in the case of pertussis there is no more effective measure that can be taken. When more individuals are immune to a disease, there are fewer potential disease carriers, so the ability of a disease to spread is greatly mitigated. It is troubling that the number of pertussis cases in the US has grown over the last two decades. According to CDC estimates, the number of pertussis cases bottomed out in 1981 at 1,248 cases, a remarkable improvement given that there were over 100,000 cases just thirty years before. However, since 1981, the number of cases have been steadily rising. A high of 48,277 cases were reported in 2012 before dropping back down to 28,639 cases in 2013. Although the CDC has not put out any official information offering reasons as to why this rise may be occurring, downward trends in general vaccination rates in certain areas of the United States could be a factor in disease resurgence, as they were for the measles outbreaks that have appeared over the past year. If you or your child have suffered from pertussis, please comment below and share your story. What do you think was to blame for the illness you experienced? Also, be sure to do your part in preventing disease, and get stay up to date on all routine vaccinations!