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California Experiencing a Whooping Cough Epidemic

More than 800 new cases have been reported in the last two weeks.

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Getty Images

The number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the state has reached epidemic proportions it was reported Friday by Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer.

As of June 10, there have been 3,458 cases of pertussis reported to CDPH in 2014, more than were reported in all of 2013. Over 800 new cases have been reported in the past two weeks.

Pertussis is cyclical and peaks every 3-5 years. The last peak in California occurred in 2010, so it is likely another peak is underway.

“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” says Dr. Chapman. “We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible.”

Infants too young to be fully immunized remain most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. Two-thirds of pertussis hospitalizations have been in children four months or younger. Two infant deaths have been reported.

The Tdap vaccination for pregnant women is the best way to protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated. All pregnant women should be vaccinated with Tdap in the third trimester of each pregnancy, regardless of previous Tdap vaccination. In addition, infants should be vaccinated as soon as possible. The first dose of pertussis vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks of age.

Older children, pre-adolescents, and adults should also be vaccinated against pertussis according to current recommendations. It is particularly important that persons who will be around newborns also be vaccinated.

“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” says Dr. Ron Chapman. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease.”

The symptoms of pertussis vary by age. For children, a typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks. The cough then worsens and children may have rapid coughing spells that end with a “whooping” sound. Young infants may not have typical pertussis symptoms and may have no apparent cough. Parents may describe episodes in which the infant’s face turns red or purple. For adults, pertussis may simply be a cough that persists for several weeks.

CDPH is working closely with local health departments, schools, media outlets and other partners to inform the general public about the importance of vaccination against pertussis. 

Pertussis data, including the number of cases in each county, can be found on the CDPH website, and is updated regularly.

— California Department of Public Health press release

MFriedrich June 16, 2014 at 01:32 PM
But when Jenny McCarthy says the Tdap and MMR vaccines cause autism, I believed her. You mean there's no scientific evidence and Jenny was wrong? Welp, I guess Diptheria is next. Also, don't step on any rusty nails kids!
MFriedrich June 16, 2014 at 02:00 PM
More congratulations are in order for the anti-vaxxers, as a whole legion of blood-sucking attorneys are most certainly gearing up to make money off of your ignorance and credulity. Way to go guys. http://www.michiganlawreview.org/articles/choices-should-have-consequences-failure-to-vaccinate-harm-to-others-and-civil-liability
mOmO123 June 16, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Thank you Fact Checker! If any parent is willing to risk the lives of their children to diseases that are preventable then by all means go for it. But when i hear a baby barking like a seal because of whooping cough it breaks my heart.
Heather H June 16, 2014 at 08:57 PM
Again just curious, why is it those of you pro-vax, why is it that you feel the need to be so nasty and rude to those with a different opinion of yours? We all feel passionate about our stance but, many of you are just blatantly rude. What happened to your "tolerance"?
fact checker June 16, 2014 at 09:57 PM
Heather you are a bit hasty in grouping all posters who question your comments together as "rude" and "nasty." Do you see the irony here?

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