May 15th, 2012

Straight talk about the Washington pertussis epidemic

Let’s keep this to a Q&A format.

What? There’s a whooping cough epidemic in Washington?

Yes, there is.

Now can someone explain to me why Wisconsin, which has almost 2,000 diagnosed cases as of May 8th to our 1,284 as of May 5th (new number at this same link every Tuesday afternoon), has not declared a state epidemic nor is getting anywhere near the current national coverage as Washington is?

What do I need to know about pertussis in Washington?

The Public Health – Seattle & King County website has a great section about pertussis. Scroll all the way down for King County (which Seattle is in) specific epidemiology information.

The Washington Department of Health  updates this report http://www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/Immunize/documents/pertupdate.pdf with statistics every Tuesday afternoon. This report is also linked from the above King County link in the upper right hand corner.

Why haven’t I heard about this before social media and listserv posts on Monday the 14th?

I’ve tried. Repeatedly. Things really did escalate recently (see May 10th Seattle Times article) and I’ve contacted many people directly since then in addition to using the hashtag tweet. I’m just one person though.

For perspective and comparison, when American Library Association held its joint meeting with the Canadian Library Association in Toronto during the SARS outbreak in 2003 they released a FAQ dated May 2nd and the conference was being held June 19-25. Please note the severity of the situation (the World Health Organization is not involved here in Seattle) and the length of time they had to plan. There are no travel bans to Seattle.

What do I do now?

You’re a medical librarian or student interested in the health information field, right?

Right. Then you already know the importance of going to authoritative sources of health information such as CDC, speaking with your own healthcare provider about you and/or your family’s current immunization status and health situation(s), and staying calm while eating bacon while not contributing to panic, misinformation or a negative hype cycle. Major props to those who are staying focused on the facts.

But MLA is less than two weeks away and my best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard that Tdap doesn’t work by then…

Repeat the above  in What do I do now? Props if you get the movie quote without Googling.

The ‘two weeks’ timeframe is mentioned specifically for the time between receiving a Tdap vaccination and coming in close contact with infants per CDC. The CDC advice for travelers tab about pertussis has

Travelers should be up-to-date with recommended pertussis vaccinations before departure.

Not two weeks before departure. No excuses. Talk with your healthcare provider about your health information. Is that not what our profession encourages people to do every day?

I talked with my healthcare provider, who recommends Tdap for me now, but I have no time to get it before MLA

No problem! Were you planning on going to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? How about EMP or the Space Needle? Stop by the pharmacy at the nicely remodeled QFC (part of the Kroger chain) nearby at 501 Mercer Street (5th & Mercer) for your Tdap in addition to a snack (check Yelp reviews).  The store is open 24 hours a day, but the pharmacy hours are M – F 9:00 am – 9:00 pm, Sat 9:00 am – 6:00 pm and Sun 10:00 am – 6:00 pm.

Posted at 06 45 AM | 4 Comments » | print this post

4 Responses to “Straight talk about the Washington pertussis epidemic”

  1. Erin says:

    I want to contribute to the “Save Ferris” fund ;-D
    Good post!

  2. Nikki Dettmar says:

    You have TOTALLY just made my day, Erin. 🙂

  3. Elizabeth L. says:

    I have been direct messaging all morning with various people about the insane reactions. What I don’t understand is why this is a surprise. I’ve been reading for MONTHS about the rise of pertussis and saw several tweets from CDC, NPRHealth, and possibly MedlinePlus about it. As medical librarians, isn’t it our job to stay informed and up to date on the latest in public health? Or maybe I’m just over zealous when it comes to my job?

    PS: I asked a doctor and he said I would be perfectly fine as long as I got a booster before I left. He really didn’t even think it was that big of a deal, but said if I was concerned to stop by the office and get the shot later today. So that’s what I’m doing! No big deal.

  4. Nikki Dettmar says:

    There has definitely been a national increase in pertussis cases that should have been on everyone’s radar. I’m glad you checked with your doctor about what would be right for you, and safe travels! 🙂

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