OGDEN -- The Weber/Morgan Health Department has seen a dramatic increase in immunizations since the recent outbreak of whooping cough at Mount Ogden Junior High School.
There have been seven documented cases of the highly contagious disease in students and employees at the school and two others elsewhere in the Weber-Morgan Health District.
The number of cases is not a record for this time of year, said epidemiologist Glen Kinney. The department has seen as many as 11 cases in the same time period in other years. But media attention to the school cases has heightened awareness of the disease and the health department has had people of all ages come in for immunizations.
"It has stimulated a lot of people to get their vaccinations, which is a good thing," Kinney said.
McKay-Dee Hospital has also seen an increase in cases as well as inquiries about the disease, said hospital spokesman Chris Dallin. Most people inquire with their doctors about immunization records, but people call the emergency room and come in when they have symptoms, Dallin said.
Because of the degree of contagion, doctors encourage patients to come when they have upper respiratory symptoms -- similar to those of the flu -- to rule out whooping cough, Dallin said.
Ogden Regional Medical Center hasn't seen an increase of inquiries or cases to this point, said community relations director Craig Bielik.
"We are prepared but we haven't seen any yet," he said Thursday.
Pediatric Care of Ogden is seeing more inquiries, both in the office and by phone.
"A lot of people who have had contact with school are concerned," said Shaundra Avalos, an LPN at Pediatric Care.
Kinney said anyone who is around infants should be immunized.
"A lot of grandparents are coming in because they know they will be around infant children," Kinney said.
The frequency of how often the whooping cough vaccine needs to be administered has not been determined and is still being tested. Tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations, which are included with the whooping cough vaccine, are suggested every 10 years for adults.
"We are hoping that is the case with (whooping cough) as well," Kinney said.
Right now, the community's health is riding on the group of immunized people.
"People not immunized are also enjoying the benefits of that herd," Kinney said.
The real concern is for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or who are immune to the vaccine. Some of the reported cases have fallen into that category.
Those who are undergoing chemotherapy have no immunities to protect them from whooping cough, Kinney said. Also, about 15 percent of those vaccinated do not accept the vaccination and are still susceptible.
"Those children are in school and are susceptible to the dramatic illness," Kinney said. But just because their immune system didn't accept the vaccine once, doesn't mean it won't accept it another time, he said.
Nothing has changed at Mount Ogden Junior High School, because all the new cases fell within the time period that was already set for when non-immunized students can return to school. Non-immunized students still can return Nov. 14 at this point. If another case is found after that date, those students will have to leave school again for up to 21 days.