News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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Pertussis outbreak that began in Emmet County has spread to Antrim, Charlevoix, and Otsego
Health officials recommend pertussis immunization for babies, children, and adults to stop the spread

(August 17, 2010) 21 cases of pertussis have been investigated by the Health Department of Northwest Michigan so far this year in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties. That's about five times the number of cases seen in a typical year in the local four-county Health District.

According to Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director, 10-15% of children under age five are not up-to-date with immunizations in the Health District. Infants are especially vulnerable to diseases that could be passed on from school-aged brothers and sisters, he said.

"That is why it is so important to protect the entire family through immunizations," he said. "We urge parents to protect their children and adolescents against pertussis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases by keeping their immunizations up-to-date. Adults under age 65 need a booster too. We often find in our investigations that adults with a lingering cough did not realize they were infected with pertussis and unknowingly gave it to a family member.

Many parents do not realize that some childhood vaccines, such as those for tetanus and pertussis, wear off over time and, as they get older, young people are at risk of exposure to different diseases at school, camp or in other new situations," said Meyerson.

"As you bring your children in for their well-child checkups or sports physicals, ask their health care provider to check their immunization status, including when to come back for the flu vaccine. At the same time, it would be a good idea to make sure that the whole family is completely up-to-date on immunizations."

With a new school year just around the corner, it's good time to check immunization records, especially because there are new rules for school shots. The following boosters are required for 6th grade or students entering new school districts, and they are recommended for all students age 11 through 18: "These rule changes are designed to help prevent school-aged children from contracting illnesses such as meningitis and pertussis," said Dr. Greg Holzman, chief medical executive for Michigan Department of Community Health. "In the last few years, Michigan has seen a significant increase in pertussis and we hope these rules will help lower the number of cases."

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. Through a centralized statewide immunization registry, Health Department staff can help identify the "shots" everyone in the family needs. Immunization appointments are available at Health Department offices in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For additional information, call 800-432-4121 or visit