Tenth California infant dies from whooping cough

A tenth infant death has been reported in California attributable to pertussis, or whooping cough, as the state is mired in the middle of what health officials are calling the worst whooping cough outbreak in the last 60 years.

There have been almost 6,000 confirmed, suspected and probable cases of the highly contagious bacterial disease reported in California since January 1, according to CNN.

The deaths, according to Michael Sicilia, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, all occurred in infants that were under the age of three months. Nine of them were younger than eight weeks old, which is too young to be vaccinated.

“This is a preventable disease," Sicilia told CNN.

Sicilia said that the pertussis vaccine is effective and should be used on adults that come into contact with infants. Regardless, some parents are choosing not to get vaccinated or not to vaccinate their children. According to California Health Department estimates, half of the children that contract pertussis get it from adults.

"That's why the real important message is - whether it's a mom, dad, sibling, grandfather or grandmother that comes in contact with these really young babies - all the close contacts, including the health care professionals, need to vaccinated," Alison Patti from the Centers for Disease Control said, CNN reports. “It's called the 'cocooning strategy,' where the newborns are protected because the older people around them have been vaccinated and protected from pertussis, and therefore won't pass it on to little babies.”