A statewide outbreak of whooping cough in which infection rates more than tripled in 2012 appears to be on the decline, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Somerset County, which had the highest per capita rate of pertussis – commonly known as whooping cough – in 2012, only one case has been reported this year, said Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the center. The CDC does not release geographic information beyond what county a case is reported in, but North Anson-based School Administrative District 74 Superintendent Ken Coville said the center confirmed an infection in the district that was reported on Jan. 23.

“It appears to have been an isolated case and there is no evidence of any other cases in the school community or the larger population,” Coville said Friday.

Statewide, reported cases of whooping cough declined from 737 in 2012 to an estimated 332 in 2013, according to Pinette. There have been 19 cases reported around the state in January.

The decline in pertussis stems from an increase in the number of vaccines administered as well as the natural cycle of the disease, which tends to manifest itself in higher rates of infection every three to five years, said Pinette. The 2012 outbreak was the largest in Maine since 1959.

“It looks pretty low compared to the previous year, but we have to recall that in 2012 we had a major outbreak nationwide and now we’ve started seeing a drop,” said Pinette.

In the 1950s there was a push to get a vaccination against the disease, although that was followed by a period of public outcry following reports of children having side effects from vaccinations, she said. Pertussis numbers have steadily increased as a result, she said.

At the end of 2012, Somerset County had the second-highest number of reported infections with 102 cases, said Pinette. 

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

rohm@centralmaine.com