Originally published August 24 2015
Reno County Health Department says the majority of whooping cough cases were found in vaccinated individuals
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) A majority of the people coming down with whooping cough in Reno County, Kansas, were vaccinated against the disease, according to the county's health department. A spokesperson for Hutchinson Schools took it further, noting that every case he had seen was in a vaccinated child.
Reno County is in the midst of an outbreak of whooping cough, also known as pertussis. As of July 31, there had been 41 cases considered confirmed or probable and more than 70 suspected cases. There were about 200 confirmed or probable cases statewide.
The Kansas outbreak is not the first to occur primarily among vaccinated people. In other recent outbreaks, including the one in Falmouth, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, nearly all of those who fell ill had received the pertussis vaccine.
Vaccine does not prevent infectionIncreasingly, research has demonstrated that pertussis rates are actually on the rise due to a weakness in the vaccine itself.
Before 1991, the pertussis vaccine was made from killed bacteria. The rates of severe side effects from this vaccine, including brain inflammation and convulsions, were considered unacceptably high, so the vaccine was reformulated in 1991. This new, "acellular" vaccine does not contain any bacterial bodies. However, while the old vaccine was about 90 percent effective, the new vaccine was initially believed to prevent infection in only 80 percent of people. According to a study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology in April, this change in effectiveness is enough on its own to explain recent changes in pertussis rates.
Recent research has shown that the effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine is actually far, far lower than 80 percent. According to Tod Merkel of the FDA, it has now become clear that the vaccine does almost nothing to prevent the spread of whooping cough. Although it does seem to prevent about 80 percent of people from showing symptoms of the disease, it does not prevent them from catching it or spreading it.
Vaccine has increased pertussis dangerWhat does the pertussis vaccine actually do? According to Merkel, it causes people who contract pertussis to either not show symptoms or show milder ones than usual. Paradoxically, however, it causes them to remain infected for twice as long as non-vaccinated people - six weeks, as opposed to three. This extra three weeks actually causes the number of bacteria in the lungs to be more than 100 times higher in vaccinated people, Merkel said, making them far more effective at spreading the disease than non-vaccinated individuals.
"The observation that [acellular pertussis], which induces an immune response mismatched to that induced by natural infection, fails to prevent colonization or transmission provides a plausible explanation for the resurgence of pertussis and suggests that optimal control of pertussis will require the development of improved vaccines," wrote Merkel and others in a 2014 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ominously, it's not just that the vaccine has gotten weaker. Widespread vaccination has actually spurred the evolution of more lethal forms of pertussis that produce higher concentrations of pertussis toxin, according to articles in Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology.
An article in the Journal of Infectious Disease suggested that this more potent bacteria might have been responsible for a 2008-2010 pertussis outbreak in Australia. It is unclear if this more potent pertussis is more likely to produce symptoms in vaccinated people than earlier forms of the disease were.
Vaccines... or hand washing?Merkel says that people showing cold-like symptoms during a pertussis outbreak should go to a doctor immediately before they develop a cough. Pertussis is bacterial, which means it can be treated with antibiotics.
"If given early enough, it will prevent the severity of the symptoms and it will prevent transmission," Merkel said.
Hand washing also stems the spread of the disease, he said.
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