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Whooping cough vaccinations recommended for Whidbey residents

The whooping cough epidemic continues to spread throughout Whidbey Island. The 18 reported cases last Friday became 22 cases on Monday, with more expected.

Simply getting vaccinated can drastically help prevent contracting the disease and spreading it.

"Getting a booster vaccine will quickly improve your immunity," said Robert Wagner, M.D., Wednesday morning. If a vaccination hasn't been received in the past 5 years, it's best to get a booster now.

The problem is that "most people have not had their shots," said Wagner."A lot of people have an anti-vaccination outlook."

However, vaccinations provide true disease prevention.

"That seems to make more sense than suffering from the disease," said Wagner.

Recently, Wagner saw a young patient with pertussis, which is the medical name for whooping cough. His mother was concerned about the vaccine so the child was left unprotected. Now, the mother is forced to miss five days of work to care for her child when this situation could have easily been prevented.

The booster shot is very safe and well-tolerated, unlike in older days, according to Wagner. Due to discredited but widespread rumors that vaccinations cause autism or brain damage, "too many people are quick to get scared and shut down," said Wagner.

There is plenty of scientific evidence that vaccines are safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Health Department, among others, can supply this.

"So these kinds of epidemics are wake-up calls," Wagner said.

Washington state allows people to decline vaccinations due to personal and religious reasons.

"With common sense, it's easy enough to see that people who will get this disease are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated," Wagner said. "We encourage vaccination to prevent for the next time."

Wagner plans to have community discussions on prevention at a later date.

All cases of Pertussis should be reported to the Health Department at 360-679-7350. For more information on pertussis, visit www.islandcounty.net/health/pertussis.htm. For more information on the vaccine, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.aap.org/healthtopics/immunizations.cfm.

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