The number of whooping cough cases in Mohave County and across the state has climbed dramatically since last year, but free protection from the disease for children is just down the street.
The Mohave County Public Health Nursing Division offers free children's vaccines, including the one for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) year round.
According to information from the Arizona Department of Health Services, the state reported 579 cases so far this year. Last year, the state reported a total of 867.
The county has reported 41 confirmed cases this year. Last year, it reported one.
"Every few years we go through a cycle, an increase in cases," said Mohave County Nursing Services Manager Christine Bronston.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the nation has experienced a slow climb in whooping cough cases since 1980, mainly because adults are not getting the vaccine every 10 years as they should be.
According to Bronston, the disease usually starts with symptoms similar to the common cold - a runny nose, congestion, sneezing and perhaps a mild cough or fever. But after one to two weeks it progresses to a persistent, rapid cough.
In children and infants the cough can be so severe it can cause a child to inhale sharply, creating a loud "whooping" noise, Bronston said.
The disease is caused by a bacterial infection of the upper airway and is very contagious. It is passed by coughing or sneezing in close proximity to others, who then breathe in the bacteria. Many children who get the disease get it from an older family member.
Adults and children of any age can get the disease, but it is especially dangerous for children under the age of 1. Complications from the disease for infants include pneumonia and seizures.
The CDC estimates more than half of the children under the age of 1 who contract the disease are hospitalized.
According to the CDC, 27,550 cases of the disease were reported in the U.S. in 2010. That same year, 27 deaths from whooping cough were reported - 25 of them children under the age of 1.
The disease can be treated with antibiotics, Bronston said. But the best way to avoid it is to get vaccinated.
You can get the vaccine at your child's pediatrician, your doctor's office or at the Mohave County Public Health Office.
The county nursing division offers the free vaccines for children ages 0 to 18 from 8 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 4 p.m. every Wednesday at 700 W. Beale St. You can also get adult vaccines at the office, but there is a charge. Bronston recommends calling the division for more information on the adult vaccine at (928) 753-0743.
The vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but it can reduce the symptoms of the disease.
The CDC recommends infants get their first Dtap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) shot at 2 months, followed by additional shots at 4 and 6 months, and Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster shots at 15 to 19 months and around 4 and 7 years of age. These are actually two different types vaccines. Only Dtap is recommended for children under the age of 12 months.
Children need to get all five shots in order to get the maximum protection from the vaccine, Bronston said.
The center also recommends booster shots every 10 years for older children and adults. Especially for adults who may have close contact with infants or young children, Bronston said.
A CDC study that traced the source of whooping cough in infants found that in 30 to 40 percent of the cases the infection came from the mother. The center recommends that pregnant mothers get a Tdap booster shot around their third trimester.
Common side effects from the vaccine include a fever, redness or swelling near the shot site, fussiness, tiredness, poor appatie, vomiting and swelling of the entire limb where the shot was given. Uncommon side effects include seizures, non-stop crying and very high fever, over 105 degrees.
Not everyone should get the vaccine, according to the CDC. Children and adults who have had life-threatening allergic reactions after receiving the vaccine should not get another dose.
Bronston also recommends proper disease hygiene to avoid transmitting the disease.
Proper disease hygiene includes frequent hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you are sick.
In fact, the department recommends that anyone with whooping cough stay home and away from others until they have completed a prescribed course of antibiotics.