According to yesterday’s release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Colorado has reported more cases of pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough) in 2012 than any other year since 1948. Whooping cough is an extremely contagious bacterial respiratory disease characterized by violent, extended coughing fits, and is most dangerous—potentially fatal—for infants and young children. Of the 1,407 cases in our state this year, one person has died. Jefferson County has been the most afflicted, with 242 cases, followed by Denver (207), Adams (195), Arapahoe (160), and Boulder (158) counties.

Although children are most vulnerable, people of any age can contract whooping cough. Adults who spend a significant amount of time around kids, including parents, teachers, medical professionals, and childcare workers, should be vaccinated, says the CDPHE. If you’ve been vaccinated, get a booster, as the immunization fades over time.

This whooping cough news caught my eye because of the persistent bug that’s been nabbing coworkers with a nasty, never-quite-gone cough since this fall. I struggled with it, stubbornly refusing to see a doctor, for weeks in September and October. It eventually dissipated and I’m fine, but it makes me wonder how many cases go undiagnosed—and, as such, how much we really do pass it from one to another in the workplace. Because of my totally irrational fear of needles, I’d typically say I won’t be getting vaccinated (or go for the booster shot) any time soon. But at what cost to those around me? How many people contracted the nasty cough because of me? At what point do I start taking other people’s health into consideration? It might be time to rethink.

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