Whooping cough, also called pertussis, reached an epidemic state in California in 2014, according to a recent California Department of Public Health report, and health professionals are now carefully observing the rapidly rising rates for 2015.
The state recorded 9,935 whooping cough cases in 2014. Of those, 347 patients required hospitalization and 62 percent of the hospitalized patients were infants.
Yvonne Maldonado, chief of infectious diseases at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health, said the dangerous disease first appears as a regular cold. Cases begin with a runny nose, sore throat and watery eyes. If the patient continues to feel exhausted and develops a cough that endures for more than two weeks, the individual should be tested for whooping cough.
Health professionals recommend taking proactive steps to avoid contracting whooping cough, which is highly contagious and can be deadly. Children under 6 months old and pregnant women have the highest risk of contracting whooping cough. For unknown genetic reasons, Hispanic infants are the most susceptible to whooping cough.
Maldonado said the most recent outbreak is due to an inadequate vaccine. The current vaccine, which dates from the 1990s, has fewer side effects, but the body’s immune response to the vaccine doesn’t last long. Additionally, many people refuse to get vaccinated.
Health professionals recommend vaccination as the best way to avoid contracting whooping cough and urge people with symptoms of whooping cough to see a physician immediately.