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Whooping cough, H1N1 vaccines available at Merced County Fair

POSTED June 18, 2010 6:45 p.m.

The Merced County Department of Public Health is offering special immunization clinics at the

Merced County Fair, providing vaccination for pertussis (whooping cough) and H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”) at no cost to the public.

Rates of whooping cough have been rising rapidly in the county and state this year, reported the county. In California, there have been 910 reported cases to date, and five infant deaths, all less than 3 months of age. There are an additional 600 suspect cases currently being investigated by local health jurisdictions for a total of over 1,500 cases.

Although there have been no deaths to date in Merced County, there have been 15 confirmed cases and 10 suspect cases currently under investigation. The average number of cases in Merced County is nine per year.

The highest preventive priority right now is for the immunization of parents and caregivers of infants from birth to age 6 months. These infants are not immune or not fully immune, even if they have started their shots.

Infants under 3 months are most vulnerable.

Whooping cough usually starts out like a common cold, but should be suspected if a cough lasts two weeks or longer. There may be fits of uncontrollable coughing, a whooping sound when breathing in, and vomiting after coughing. If you suspect your child has whooping cough, call your doctor’s office and discuss symptoms before coming in. Whooping cough is contagious and precautions should be taken not expose other people.

In addition to current pertussis vaccination efforts, H1N1 vaccination continues to be a priority. Only people who have had the disease or immunization are protected, which leaves a large number of people who are not.

More cases are expected during the flu season this fall, so it is recommended that people get vaccinated now.

“Pertussis bacteria and H1N1 influenza viruses are spread by coughing and sneezing, and by skin to skin contact, when respiratory fluids may be transferred,” said Dr. Timothy Livermore, Merced County Health officer. “Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and hand washing are recommended for preventing all respiratory infections. Because there are vaccines for both pertussis and H1N1, having a high percentage of community residents fully vaccinated is the best protection.”

Public health nurses are available to provide information and immunizations for pertussis and H1N1 at the Merced County Fair. Immunizations will be available at a booth in a corner of the Commerce Building from noon to 6 p.m. today and Sunday.

Those unable to attend the special clinics at the county fair can request immunizations through their primary care physicians or by contacting the Merced County Department of Public Health at 381-1010 for other public health clinic times. The public health clinic schedule and additional information is also available at www.co.merced.ca.us/health.

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