Whooping cough now epidemic in Calif.

800 cases reported in last two weeks

June 16, 2014


Whooping cough, a bacterial infection also known as pertussis, is sweeping through California, with 3,458 cases reported. The condition is preventable by vaccines for infants and children, and by boosters for pre-teens and adults whose immunity may have faded.

The state is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone.

This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted.

Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public health said the best way to prevent the spread of the disease is to make sure children are immunized.

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

For infants and children, the immunization comes in the form of a combination vaccine that also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. Since 2005, the booster vaccine also has protected recipients from all three.

All adults should get a Tdap booster, unless you had one as a teenager (after age 11).

The bacteria spreads through coughing and sneezing. One person can infect up to 15 people nearby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically symptoms appear an average of seven to ten days after exposure.

California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.

Whooping cough cases have spread rapidly in the United States this year, with a 24% increase nationally in the number of cases, compared to January through April of last year, according to the CDC.

Other states are reporting similar problems. The Mobile County Health Department in Alabama, for example, recently noted an “alarming” rise of cases locally, with 18 case in May and June. That’s more than all the reported cases in Mobile for 2013, health officials say.


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