Health
12:31 pm
Fri December 10, 2010

'Whooping Cough' Hits St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri – Pertussis is on the rise in St. Louis County (but not Kansas City). More commonly known as "whooping cough," pertussis has sickened close to 200 St. Louis residents this year, most of them in the past six weeks.

The highly contagious bacterial infection spreads through airborne droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Infants, small children, and pregnant women are especially at risk.

Dr. Faisal Khan of the Saint Louis County Department of Health says the county is not alone in reporting an usually high number of cases this year.

"There are jurisdictions all over the country that have reported an increase in pertussis cases," says Dr. Khan. "California is one major example."

More than 7200 cases of pertussis have been reported in California, the most seen in that state in over 60 years.

Dr. Khan says part of the problem is that fewer people are getting vaccinated against pertussis. Missouri has one of the lowest immunization rates in the country.

Health officials in Kansas City, on the other hand, say they are not seeing a similar outbreak in this region. They say there's been an occasional case of whooping cough in a family that has either an unvaccinated, or not fully vaccinated child.