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No whooping cough deaths reported in 2011

POSTED January 27, 2012 9:07 p.m.

A 20-year milestone in the fight against whooping cough was reached in 2011. There were no deaths from whooping cough reported in California in all of 2011. The last time California went a whole year without a whooping cough death was 1991, announced Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and the state public health officer.

“Greater awareness of the disease, more rapid diagnosis and treatment, and increased vaccination rates contributed to saving the lives of infants. I thank our public health and medical communities for working together and being especially vigilant following the 2010 epidemic,” Chapman said.

Ten infants died from whooping cough in 2010. More than 9,000 Californians were diagnosed with the disease, also known as “pertussis,” last year. California introduced mandatory Tdap boosters for seventh grade students, and insured that all students above that grade had boosters by 2011. Free vaccines were also offered to hospitals. Tdap is a combined tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination.  

While no deaths related to whooping cough were reported in 2011, there were a total of 159 cases of whooping cough reported in Stanislaus County; an increase from the 153 cases reported in 2010. Both 2010 and 2011 saw a dramatic increase in whooping cough cases reported in the county; in 2009 there were 17 reported cases, six in 2008 and eight in 2007.

Whooping cough cases remain high, with 3,000 cases reported state wide in 2011. However, nobody has died of whooping cough in the state since Oct. 12, 2010.

Young infants are the most vulnerable to serious whooping cough complications. Of 575 whooping cough cases among infants 3 months of age or younger reported during 2011, 244 (42 percent) were hospitalized. That’s a significant drop since 2010 when 59 percent of infected infants in that age group were hospitalized.

Immunity gained from pertussis vaccine wanes over time, so a booster shot is needed. The new school immunization law is intended to further protect communities by ensuring that adolescents, who may no longer be immune to whooping cough, are vaccinated. CDPH produced public service announcements in English and Spanish and partnered with the California Broadcasters Association to encourage media outlets to air the ads aimed at raising awareness about pertussis and the new California law. Adults, especially those who live or work with infants, are also strongly encouraged to get a Tdap shot.

To learn more about whooping cough in California, visit www.CDPH.ca.gov. To learn more about California’s school immunization law, visit www.ShotsforSchool.org.

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