Throughout 2012, incidences of pertussis - a disease also known as whooping cough - rose across the nation. As early as April, some states began declaring epidemics with thousands of cases reported. Colorado declared epidemic status Aug. 20.
With more than 1,400 reported pertussis cases statewide, the numbers are as high as they've been in six decades. In 1948 there were 1,833 cases reported. Pertussis can be deadly, particularly for the very young and the very old. One death has been reported in Colorado this year, an older adult from Larimer County who died in October. This was Colorado's first pertussis-related fatality since the deaths of two infants in 2005.
While most of Colorado's cases are concentrated in areas of high population, such as the Denver metro area, Summit County still has yet to record a single case. This doesn't mean there aren't any cases, but that none have been reported. A smaller population may be one reason that the county has been spared so far, although that may change as the ski season opens the county up to visitors from all over.
Pertussis is a contagious disease, usually transmitted by air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. One sick person can potentially infect up to 12 or 15 others.
There are prevention methods. A safe, proper cough is conducted into the elbow, not the hands, which are then used to touch common surfaces such as handrails or doorknobs. Washing your hands regularly can also help.
Vaccination is a very good way to prevent coming down with pertussis. Anyone who works with children on a daily basis is recommended to get the vaccine. Adults, teens and children over the age of 5 can get a pertussis vaccination, called a TDaP shot, which gives a combined vaccination for tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. The vaccinations can be found at the public health office and various pharmacies around the county including Safeway, City Market and Walgreens. Anyone unsure of where to get the vaccine or whether they need to receive it should contact their health care provider.