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Whooping cough bounces back

Replacement vaccine is not so great at protecting kids

By
2:00pm, April 4, 2014

PERTUSSIS REDUX  Whooping cough, a disease nearly vanquished in the United States in the 1970s, has made a comeback that coincides with a change in vaccines.

Whooping cough has turned up in North America after decades of near absence, and we have only ourselves to blame.

In the last several years, the highly contagious microbe that causes whooping cough has spawned a string of outbreaks, adeptly piercing the shield of vaccination that once afforded solid protection against it. The last time whooping cough was this pervasive in the United States, Dwight Eisenhower was president and newscasters were smoking cigarettes on TV.

Caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium, whooping cough is emerging from the shadows in response to a fateful switch of vaccines embraced in the 1990s, just when it seemed the disease was licked. The vaccine used today has proved less potent than its predecessor. Meanwhile, curious changes are appearing in the pertussis bacterium itself, possibly in response to the weaker vaccine, and they may further undermine its effect. To top it off, a phobia against vaccines has induced some parents to

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