With five infant deaths and 1,500 confirmed cases, “whooping cough is now an epidemic in California.”
The year 2010 is on target to experience the most Californian deaths in 50 years. As of July 16, California had recorded 1,500 cases of pertussis, also called whooping cough — a fivefold increase during the same period in 2009.
Pertussis is a highly contagious disease. A typical case of pertussis in children and adults starts with a cough and runny nose for one-to-two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever is rare.
Unimmunized or incompletely immunized young infants are particularly vulnerable. The outbreak is the worst that it has been in 50 years, therefore Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health said, "Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot."
Pertussis vaccination begins at two months of age, but young infants are not adequately protected until the initial series of three shots is complete at 6 months of age. The series of shots that most children receive wears off by the time they finish middle school. Neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis provides lifetime immunity.
Adults often don’t know they have the illness. It may look like a common cold at the beginning of the infection and then it becomes a cough that just lingers on forever. People are contagious for the first four weeks of the illness. California has expanded its vaccine recommendations beyond the standard vaccination schedule. Californians who are ages 7 and up, those over age 64, and pregnant women are included in the expanded recommendations. Contact your health provider or phone the public health hotline for your area.
- Pertussis Epidemic in California May be Worst in 50 Years, InfectionControlToday.com
- Parents of Kids with Infectious Disease, PKids.com
- California declares whooping cough epidemic, LATimes.com
- Whooping Cough: What You Need to Know, WebMD.com