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Whooping cough returns to Murray school, failure to vaccinate blamed

Whooping cough returns to Murray school, failure to vaccinate blamed (Photo: KUTV)

Correction: The video above incorrectly states that those interested can get the MMR vaccine to protect themselves from whooping cough. The CDC recommends, however, those looking to avoid pertussis should ask for a DTaP or Tdap vaccine, depending on age.

(KUTV) More than 30 students at a single school have been diagnosed with whooping cough, a potentially deadly disease.

Since the American International School of Utah announced the first outbreak early April, there have been at least 32 confirmed cases of pertussis, or whooping cough.

Doctors with the Salt Lake County Health Department said whooping cough is a cyclical disease that waxes and wanes every four to give years. Dr. Dagmar Vitek said cases have been rising steadily in the county since 2012.

“It is a very contagious disease. It usually comes back four to five years,” Vitek said.

She said the bacteria also spreads because so many parents are opting out of vaccinating their children, which is reflected in the exemption rate percentage.

“The more children that get vaccinated, we know it protects the others," Vitek said. “We know if the schools have an exemption rate of three to four percent, they do better.”

AISU’s exemption rate is a staggering 11 percent.

“We’re obeying every applicable state law. We can’t force parents to immunize their kids. So, we can’t do anything about that,” AISU's communication director Kelly Casaday said, visibly troubled by the state's mandate.

Casaday hoped parents who exempted their children from vaccinations based on issues other than medical conditions or religious beliefs would reconsider.

Vitek supported state legislation to remove "personal preference" from the list of acceptable reasons to exempt a child from receiving inoculations.

She believed if more students were vaccinated, students like Rylee Hall would have a smaller risk.

Hall is a Junior at AISU who has been fully vaccinated, but still contracted whooping cough.

“It was absolutely horrible. You cough so hard you puke and everything tastes like blood," Hall said. “I’ve never been down for two and a half weeks straight."

She called for every family with exemptions who is eligible to get vaccinated.

“Get the immunization. I’m sick because of it," she asked. “Please do. I get it, I’m a hippie dippy [...] and I'm vaccinated."

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