OLYMPIA, Wash., May 4 (UPI) -- Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said she is allocating more funds to combat a whooping cough epidemic that has stricken more than 1,100 people.
Gregoire made $90,000 in emergency funds available -- in addition to $210,000 in existing funds -- for the state Department of Health to help curb the spread of whooping cough, or pertussis.
"I've been following the epidemic closely and the continued increase in cases has me very concerned about the health of our residents," Gregoire said in a statement. "I'm especially concerned about the vulnerable babies in our communities that are too young to be fully immunized."
Infants cannot be immunized against pertussis. Their only protection is that the adults and children they have contact with are immunized against the highly contagious disease.
The governor also urged all healthcare providers to get vaccinated, and to talk with all of their patients about the importance of getting the Tdap vaccine.
Gregoire also said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved federal funds designated for other immunizations to buy more than 27,000 doses of the vaccine for adults who are uninsured or underinsured.
Mary C. Selecky, secretary of health, said through April 28, 1,132 cases of whooping cough have been reported -- compared to 117 over the same period last year.
Selecky declared a whooping cough epidemic in Washington one month ago.
"In my 13 years as secretary this is the first time I've had to use the word 'epidemic' in our state," Selecky said. "We're headed for unprecedented numbers of cases."