WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Whooping cough reaches epidemic proportions in California

There have been 3,458 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, reported in California during the first half of the year, as of June 10.

Ron Chapman, the director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), declared the number, which is greater than the total number of cases reported in 2013, to be of epidemic proportions.

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

Two infant deaths were reported this year, and two-thirds of hospitalizations for pertussis have been children four months or younger. Infants too young to be fully immunized are most vulnerable to the severe effects of pertussis.

Pregnant women can get the Tdap vaccine to protect infants too young for a vaccination. Children old enough are encouraged to get the vaccination.

Pertussis has a peak cycle of 3-5 years. It is likely that California is experiencing a peak, as the last one occurred in 2010.

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

Typical cases of pertussis start with a cough and runny nose, which then worsens. Symptoms may vary by age.