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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Dr. Diana Yu, Health Officer, Public Health & Social Services Dept., (360) 867-2501
Mary Ann O'Garro, Epidemiologist, Public Health & Social Services Dept., (360) 867-2525

Thurston Health Officials Say Vaccines Are Key to Safer and Healthier Winter

Thurston County health officials are encouraging all area residents to give themselves a gift this holiday season--flu and whooping cough vaccines.

The recent report of an infant death in King County from whooping cough is a reminder that not every cough or sniffle this season is a common cold. Over 100 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, have been reported in Thurston County this year, and flu season has already started--more than a month earlier than usual for the Pacific Northwest.

"In Thurston County, we're seeing a lot of respiratory illnesses like pertussis and influenza. While we haven't had any whooping cough or flu related deaths in recent months in Thurston County, the infant death in King County is a sad reminder that these kinds of highly contagious respiratory diseases must be taken seriously," said Dr. Diana Yu, Health Officer for Thurston County. "We're encouraging unvaccinated people of all ages to talk to their doctor about getting a whooping cough or flu vaccine."

Dr. Yu added that there are other simple steps that help prevent the spread of whooping cough, the flu, the common cold, and other respiratory illnesses:
  • Cover your mouth and nose. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or with a tissue.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. When hand washing is not possible, use antiseptic hand gels that contain alcohol.

  • Stay home if you are sick.

Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, is a highly contagious illness caused by bacteria that is spread through face-to-face contact with someone who is sick with the disease. Many adults mistake a whooping cough infection for a common cold. People of all ages can get whooping cough, but it can severely affect babies and young children who can experience severe cough spells and complications like pneumonia, seizures, brain damage, and even death.

Pregnant women, infants and young children, people with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, and people who work in healthcare, childcare, or who regularly come in contact with children are strongly encouraged to talk to their doctor about getting a whooping cough vaccine. Getting a whooping cough vaccine helps prevent infection, and also helps prevent the spread of the disease.

Pregnant women are especially encouraged to talk to their doctor about the whooping cough vaccine, called a Tdap booster shot. Getting a Tdap booster can help prevent the spread of whooping cough to their baby. All pregnant women should get a new Tdap booster with each pregnancy, and ideally in the third trimester to maximize the chances that the mother's immunity is passed through to the infant.

Seasonal influenza is a serious illness that each year kills about 36,000 Americans and sends more than 200,000 to the hospital. Common complications from seasonal flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. Seniors, pregnant women, children younger than five, people with chronic medical conditions like asthma or heart disease, and people who work in healthcare, senior care, and childcare are all strongly encouraged to get a flu shot.

For more information about whooping cough, go to www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ and click on "Pertussis (Whooping Cough)" under the Immunization Information heading. For more information on the flu, click on "Influenza" under the Personal Health section.


County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3