Whooping cough infections top 6,795 in California

Health officials in California and other states are urging people to get vaccinated against pertussis, or whooping cough, as this year’s outbreak continues to take a heavy toll.

Fewer than one out of every 13 adults have received the vaccination against pertussis, according to

California has confirmed a total of 6,795 suspected and probable cases of pertussis this year. There have been 164 new cases reported in the last week alone. California’s most recent peak was in 2005, when there were 3,182 cases. The highest peak outside of this year in California occurred in 1947, when there were 9,394 cases.

California is reporting the largest number of pertussis cases it has seen in the last 63 years, since before vaccination became widespread, reports. Since the United States nearly rid itself of pertussis 30 years ago, the country has seen the spread of the disease steadily increase, partly due to declining vaccination rates.

Infants are especially susceptible to pertussis. Fifty percent of those infected need hospitalization. In California, 10 infants have died from the illness. Whooping cough is far less dangerous for adults, but they can catch the disease more readily as childhood vaccinations begin to wear off.

While no one appears sure of the current percentage of parents that refuse to have their children vaccinated, in 2008, it was up to 39 percent, reports. In 2003, 22 percent of parents refused. In many cases, a lack of awareness is the key cause.