SPOKANE-- Whooping cough is still an epidemic in Spokane and across the state and there's now a big statewide push for adults to get vaccinated.
KREM 2's Ashley Korslien found out why many of our emergency personnel aren't protected from the illness.
Around the state, more adults are getting vaccinated against whooping cough. Between March and may of this year, immunizations more than doubled last year's totals.
That isn't the case with emergency personnel in Spokane. A large majority of the Spokane Fire Department is not immunized.
Firefighters and first responders aren't required to get vaccinated against whooping cough, and the city doesn't pay for the shots.
Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer says fewer than 20% of paramedics are vaccinated against whooping cough. “We pretty well had one hundred percent or darn close to the one hundred percent for the flu vaccine this year. But with whooping cough vaccine, it’s much lower in frequency.”
Schaeffer says the warning signs are clear enough that crews can detect the illness before coming in contact with it. “Most often presents with a very identifiable symptom and sign and that’s the cough.”
Firefighters wear masks to limit exposure.
Because whooping cough has reached epidemic levels, the department has also amped up awareness of the disease. “They know the facilities the virus may be, they know approximately how many cases we're seeing, how many cases result in hospitalization and how many cases result in deaths.”
There are 58 reported whooping cough cases in Spokane County this year. Six of those resulted in hospitalizations.