New Strain of Whooping Cough Is Drug-Resistant

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*8News Reporter Amy Aubert is talking with health professionals about the new strain of whooping cough…find out how to keep your child and loved ones safe tonight at 5 & 6.*

NEW YORK (AP) – Researchers have discovered the first U.S. cases of
whooping cough caused by a germ that may be resistant to the vaccine.

Health officials are looking into whether cases
like the dozen found in Philadelphia might be one reason the nation just
had its worst year for whooping cough in six decades. The new bug was
previously reported in Japan, France and Finland.

“It's quite intriguing. It's the first time we've
seen this here,” said Dr. Tom Clark of the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention.

The U.S. cases are detailed in a brief report from the CDC and other researchers in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that
can strike people of any age but is most dangerous to children. It was
once common, but cases in the U.S. dropped after a vaccine was
introduced in the 1940s.

An increase in illnesses in recent years has been
partially blamed on a version of the vaccine used since the 1990s, which
doesn't last as long. Last year, the CDC received reports of 41,880
cases, according to a preliminary count. That included 18 deaths.

The new study suggests that the new whooping cough
strain may be why more people have been getting sick. Experts don't
think it's more deadly, but the shots may not work as well against it.

In a small, soon-to-be published study, French
researchers found the vaccine seemed to lower the risk of severe disease
from the new strain in infants. But it didn't prevent illness
completely, said Nicole Guiso of the Pasteur Institute, one of the
researchers.

The new germ was first identified in France, where
more extensive testing is routinely done for whooping cough. The strain
now accounts for 14 percent of cases there, Guiso said.

In the United States, doctors usually rely on a
rapid test to help make a diagnosis. The extra lab work isn't done often
enough to give health officials a good idea how common the new type is
here, experts said.

“We definitely need some more information about this before we can draw any conclusions,” the CDC's Clark said.

The U.S. cases were found in the past two years in
patients at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. One
of the study's researchers works for a subsidiary of Johnson &
Johnson, which makes a version of the old whooping cough vaccine that is
sold in other countries.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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