Ninth infant dies from whooping cough in California

Health officials in California have reported that a ninth infant has died from whooping cough.

The infant, who lived in San Bernardino County, was less than two months old, the Los Angeles Times reports. This death is the second whooping cough death in San Bernardino County.

California Department of Public Health spokesman Ken August told the Los Angeles Times that this latest fatality now makes this year’s epidemic more deadly than a 2005 outbreak, which killed eight infants.

August, along with other healthcare officials, has noted that infants run the greatest risk of dying from whooping cough because they are too young to be completely vaccinated against it. Of the nine fatalities recorded in California so far, officials estimate that seven of the infants were too young to be vaccinated.

Symptoms in infants are also often so mild that parents and physicians may not suspect whooping cough until it is too late.

Public health officials in California, including San Bernardino County’s health officer Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, urged those who have regular contact with infants to receive vaccinations.

“This sad case reminds us that the best way to prevent pertussis is to get vaccinated,” Ohikhuare told the Los Angeles Times. “Immunity from pertussis vaccine or disease wears off, so most adults are susceptible to pertussis and should get immunized to protect themselves and their families.”

Health officials noted that because immunity to whooping cough starts to fade as early as five years after vaccination, it is important to get a booster shot.