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Whooping cough wave in Germany continues to spread
In Germany, an unusually large number of people have recently developed whooping cough (pertussis). The childhood disease, which also occurs in adults, is particularly dangerous for infants. There were even a few deaths in the past year.
Number of whooping cough infections at a new high
Whooping cough (pertussis) occurs all year round, but the infections are generally somewhat more common in autumn and winter. As the news agency dpa reports, the number of whooping cough infections in Germany has risen to a new high. According to this, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) registered a total of 22,119 cases in 2016. That was by far the most since the nationwide reporting obligation began in 2013.
Particularly dangerous for infants
At that time there were around 12,600 patients a year, in 2015 around 14,000. "We probably see both here: a wave of diseases, but also an increasingly better detection," said Wiebke Hellenbrand, infection researcher at the RKI.
Infections are favored by vaccination gaps. The disease is particularly dangerous for infants. According to the information, three babies died from the infection in Germany in 2016 - an unusually high number.
The RKI has been notified of 1,554 new whooping cough patients since the beginning of the year. Hellenbrand assumes that the wave also has to do with a typical cycle of the pathogen.
According to the RKI, cyclical increases in pertussis were observed every four to six years. Whooping cough infections have been recorded in eastern Germany since 2002. The highlights were the years 2007 and 2012 - so the time could be ripe again.
Transmission occurs through droplet infection
According to Hellenbrand, around 10,000 babies a year from whooping cough had died in Germany prior to vaccination since the 1930s.
The transmission of the highly contagious infectious disease "occurs through droplet infection, which can occur through close contact with an infectious person, through large droplets within a distance of up to approx. 1 meter through coughing, sneezing or speaking", the RKI experts write on their website.
"Adolescents and adults play an important role as carriers of infants," it continues. The incubation period is usually nine to ten days (range: six to 20 days).
Most children are protected at school
According to the latest RKI data, almost 97 percent of children in eastern Germany and 95 percent in western Germany were protected against whooping cough in 2014.
In adults, whooping cough is difficult to detect according to experts, it is only every fifth to tenth, depending on age. It is said that one third of young parents have vaccination protection and one fifth of pregnant women. But families with young children are considered the main risk group.
"Whooping cough is not yet fully known among the general public and general practitioners," said Hellenbrand. To make matters worse, the vaccination has its pitfalls and must be refreshed again and again. "But we have nothing better."
Basic immunization for children
The Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) recommends starting the basic immunization against whooping cough, consisting of four vaccine doses, from the age of two months and completing it by the 14th month of life at the latest.
The vaccination should be refreshed once at the age of five to six and from nine to 17 years.
According to the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA), the injection site may swell, hurt or turn red after vaccination. In addition, increased temperature, chills, fatigue, muscle pain and gastrointestinal complaints are possible. However, the symptoms usually subside after three days at the latest.
People without protection can get infected again
In addition, according to the RKI, certain adults are among the target groups of the vaccination, provided that no pertussis vaccination has taken place in the past ten years: "personnel in the health service and in community facilities", "women of childbearing age" and "close household contact persons (parents, siblings) and." Caregivers (e.g. childminders, babysitters, grandparents if necessary) of infants no later than four weeks before the birth of the child ”.
For them, pertussis protection is recommended, along with refreshment for tetanus and diphtheria - but often simply forgotten. “The recommended interval of ten years is probably not enough,” says Hellenbrand. If the vaccination protection expires, people can become infected again after the infection has been overcome.
Babies from non-vaccinated mothers have no protection until the first immunization option at the age of two months. Therefore, there are considerations to generally recommend vaccination to pregnant women, the expert explained. Whooping cough research is now making further progress with the reporting requirement. "We have never had so much data." (Ad)