Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder

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April 9 2012 9:40 AM

Whooping cough outbreak in Boulder

Medical officials are saying that there have been 37 cases of pertussis -- whooping cough -- reported in my hometown of Boulder so far this year.

We're not even 100 days into 2012 yet. [Note: Washington State is in the midst of an actual epidemic of pertussis.]

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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How serious is this? 30 of those Boulder cases are in children under the age of 18... and it almost took the life of six week old Natalie Schultz. The local news reported on this:


[You may need to refresh this page to see the video.]

This outbreak might shock you, especially considering Boulder is one of the most educated cities in the United States. But in fact, I've been wondering if and when something like this might happen here. Denial of the benefits of vaccination is strong in educated areas, like Boulder or Marin county, California -- being educated doesn't mean you get things right, and in fact can make people believe in their own knowledge even more strongly. They go online and find antivax literature which magnifies their own beliefs.

Also, these tend to be more left-leaning areas, and the antivax movement does better there. The result? A little baby, not even two months old, is recovering from a nearly-fatal event that was totally preventable if enough people were vaccinated. Herd immunity would have prevented this whole thing. Natalie is too young to get a pertussis vaccine herself, so babies like her rely on adults -- us -- to be immunized against these diseases.

Adults should have a pertussis booster every ten years. I got my TDaP booster a couple of years ago. Just two months earlier, unbeknownst to me at the time, a little girl in Belgium named Lore Darch died from pertussis at the age of 83 days. Her father, Danny, wrote a diary for her as a memorial. Read it if you can. I did, and my heart aches so hard it's a physical pain.

Like David and Toni McCaffery -- who lost their daughter Dana to pertussis -- Danny and his wife Katrien have become vocal advocates for vaccination.

If you haven't had your booster, you should talk to your board-certified doctor and see if you need one as well.

As Danica, Natalie's mother put it:

"I almost lost my daughter at almost six weeks old... that could have been prevented if everyone was vaccinated."

She's right. Antivaxxers are wrong. DON'T believe them about vaccine ingredients. DON'T believe them when they say they just want to educate people. DON'T believe them when they say vaccines cause autism. DON'T believe them when they say vaccines don't work.

Vaccinations save lives. It's that simple. Go talk to your doctor. NOW. My thanks to The Vaccine Times on Twitter for alerting me to this.



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