The latest research on cough and cold finds that pertussis cases are dangerously high in many states, pets may confer an immunity boost, and parenthood protects individuals from the common cold.
A majority of states reported increased pertussis activity or outbreaks during the first half of 2012, with Washington declaring an epidemic in April, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By July 5, 2012, 37 states reported increases in the disease compared with 2011.
More than 17,000 cases of the highly contagious respiratory infection were reported by July 12, 2012, according to the CDC. Nine pertussis-related deaths have also been reported. Many of the cases and the majority of deaths occurred among infants younger than 3 months, the age group that exceeds all others for pertussis cases. Children aged 7 to 10 years have the second highest rates of the disease.
Eighteen states—Wisconsin, Washington, Montana, Vermont, Minnesota, Iowa, Utah, Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Idaho, and Alaska—have higher incidence rates than the national average of 5.24 cases per 100,000 people. Wisconsin has the highest incidence of pertussis cases, with 50.7 cases per 100,000 people, followed by Washington at 39.2 cases per 100,000 people and Montana at 32.7 cases per 100,000 people.
Montana allows medical exemptions from required immunizations if there is a medical contraindication; however, the department noted that the exemption can be interpreted broadly, allowing physicians to grant exemptions due to allergies, autism fears, or other reasons.
Washington also allows religious and personal belief exemptions—meaning parents can opt out of childhood vaccine requirements with a health care provider’s signature or with proof of membership in a religious body.