Pertussis increase in Iowa leads to vaccine requirement

Several areas in Iowa have reported increases in cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in the past couple years. While Hamilton County has been unaffected, local health officials are planning a clinic at Webster City Middle School to comply with new state standards.

After 1,736 confirmed and probable cases of pertussis were reported in 2012, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health, changes to the Iowa Code were approved to require a Tdap vaccine for all students entering seventh grade. The Tdap vaccine is a combined shot for pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria.

There are no current outbreaks in Iowa and Hamilton County has not seen an increase in pertussis according to Hamilton County Public Health Director Shelby Kroona. However, Public Health and Webster City Middle School are planning a clinic to comply with the new standards.

Many students will be eligible for the clinic, according to Webster City School Nurse Eva Powers. Those who are uninsured, have Title 19 Medicaid or have insurance but their insurance does not cover vaccines are eligible. Those who have insurance that covers vaccines are not eligible, but must still receive the vaccine before entering seventh grade. Powers said those who do not comply with the law can be excluded from school unless they have a medical waiver.

Permission slips for the clinic are due by April 17. Powers said the date of the clinic has yet to be finalized. However, she expects it to take place at the school in early May. Powers said Webster City is lucky to have a county public health department that is willing to work with schools so closely.

“Not everybody has clinics at school. Last year, it worked out really well. We got over 100 kids vaccinated. It makes it so much easier,” Powers said. “It’s just an easy way for us to try to help out parents and help out us to get it all done.”

Kroona said last year’s clinic in Webster City was hosted in preparation for this upcoming code change. Students at other schools in Hamilton County were also given access to the vaccine at clinics.

“Because Northeast Hamilton is smaller, we just vaccinated everyone who was eligible,” Kroona said. “We’re doing the same thing with South Hamilton.”

While pertussis has not seen a resurgence in Hamilton County, Kroona said the potential health risks warrant the vaccine. The symptoms, which include nasal problems, severe coughing and fever, aren’t life threatening for many. However, Registered Nurse Dawn Trujillo said the disease can be deadly in infants. A vaccine for pertussis is commonly administered to pregnant women and those who are in proximity to infants.