"A reported boom in U.S. whooping cough cases is now being questioned after health officials discovered a regularly used lab test misdiagnosed cases in suspected outbreaks in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Tennessee. The false test results led thousands of people to take antibiotics unnecessarily and even caused a New Hampshire hospital to limit the number of patients admitted since hospital workers were thought to be infected....Government health officials say cases have tripled in the United States since 2001, with nearly 26,000 cases reported in 2005. Nearly half of those cases were diagnosed with the testing method now called into question, and that has raised doubts about the true number of cases......"It's been a roller coaster. Whoa, look at this big outbreak! Whoa, it wasn't really pertussis!" said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of Vanderbilt University's department of preventive medicine." - Mike Stobbe, Associated Press (August 23, 2007)
Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:
When public health authorities choose to scare us by hyping the dangers of infectious disease, like whooping cough (pertussis), the least we can expect is that they have gotten their scientific facts straight. The Keystone Cops act is not very reassuring: "Whoa, look at this big outbreak! Whoa, it wasn't really pertussis!".
For the last several years, public health officials have been beating the drums, warning us that whooping cough is on the rise despite a more than 95 percent uptake of pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine by all children entering kindergarten, who are required by most states to have 3-5 doses of DTaP (diphtheria- tetanus-acellular pertussis) vaccine before they can attend school. The CDC's solution has been to recommend yet another dose of pertussis vaccine via a booster Tdap shot for all 11-12 year old children. New York and other state health officials are in the process of persuading politicians to add Tdap to state mandatory vaccination laws. That "more is better" solution, say federal health officials, will finally stamp out whooping cough.
But now, we find out that many of the whooping cough cases reported in the "outbreaks" around the country, such as in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Tennessee, were bogus cases because some "speedy" lab tests to confirm whooping cough give a false positive the majority of the time. So the reported tripling of whooping cough cases in the past five years may be a total fabrication and the push for children to get another booster dose of Tdap at 11-12 years old may not make any difference at all.
There are other infectious organisms, such as parapertussis, which cause respiratory disease that can mimic whooping cough and they are not covered in the Tdap vaccine. Lab diagnosis is critical to accurately confirming and treating whooping cough and it is unfortunate that it has taken so long to uncover the ineffectiveness of the lab test used to confirm many suspected whooping cough cases today.
But more importantly, the rush by federal health officials to add yet another booster dose of vaccine without carefully investigating why whooping cough is apparently occurring in a highly vaccinated child population does not inspire confidence in the evidence with which the CDC supports vaccine recommendations. Assumptions are a poor replacement for scientific evidence.
Equally concerning is the lack of scientific evidence supporting the safety of giving children entering puberty multiple vaccines, such as Tdap, meningococcal, HPV and chicken pox vaccine and others without long term studies evaluating the impact of pre-adolescent vaccination on brain and immune function. Today, the CDC recommends that, by age 11, children should have received 53-56 doses of 15 or 16 vaccines depending upon if the child is a boy or girl. Where are the safety studies that demonstrate this much vaccination leads to greater long term good health?