Illinois students required to get whooping cough vaccine

A new regulation in the state of Illinois will require that all middle and high school students be immunized against whooping cough by late next year due to increased cases of the highly contagious disease.
Students in sixth through twelfth grade will be required to receive a Tdap vaccine by October 15. The vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, another term for whooping cough, the Olney Daily Mail reports.
Debbie Lamb, a Richland County health nurse, said the reason the immunization is being required for those grades is because it is when they typically receive a tetanus booster shot.
“This is the new and improved version of the tetanus booster,” Lamb said, according to the Olney Daily Mail. "(Older children and adults) are finding that their immunity is decreasing and they are getting the disease. What was once thought was a lifetime immunity against whooping cough is not a fact anymore."
Unless students have a medical condition allowing them to be exempt, children must receive the Tdap vaccine even if they had a tetanus shot a few years earlier.

The number of whooping cough cases in the state has risen since 2004. According to Lamb, there were more than 1,000 northeastern Illinois cases of the illness this year alone and in previous years there would only be 200 to 300 cases, according to the Olney Daily Mail.
The defining symptom of pertussis is a cough that lasts for more than two weeks that causes a distinct "whooping" sound and makes the cougher short of breath.