The number of individuals suffering from pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough is increasing in the state, according to the California Department of Public Health.
CDPH has received reports of 1,711 cases of pertussis occurring from January through April 2014, more than triple than the number of cases in the same period last year.
“Pertussis peaks in incidence every 3-5 years,” says Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the CDPH. “The last peak in California was in 2010, and now we are concerned that the recent increase in reported cases suggests that another cyclical peak is beginning.”
In Stanislaus County there have been 22 confirmed cases of whooping cough so far this year, with a few others waiting test results, according to the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency. At this time last year the county had only two confirmed cases of whooping cough, said Trudi Prevette, a registered nurse with the county health department.
“There has been an upsurge in pertussis activity just this month,” Prevette said.
Toward the end of 2010 California had seen 6, 631 whooping cough cases for the year, which resulted in 10 deaths. All the deaths were children under the age of 3 years. California hadn’t seen such a high rate of whooping cough cases since the 1950s. In Stanislaus County in 2010 there were 153 cases.
Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that attacks the respiratory system. The disease is characterized by severe coughing spasms and last for several weeks, or months. It’s spread from person to person through coughing and/or sneezing. It’s a highly contagious disease that infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to if they haven’t been immunized, the Centers for Disease Control reported.
Most of the 77 hospitalized cases to date in 2014 have been in children three months of age or younger. This year’s two pertussis deaths, the first reported in California since 2010, occurred in infants. To prevent severe pertussis in infants, CDPH recommends that pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, and that infants be vaccinated as soon as possible.
More than 90 percent of this year’s reported pertussis cases have been in children younger than 18 years of age, including 32 percent who were 14 through 16 years of age. Outbreaks of pertussis in elementary, middle, and high schools have been reported throughout the state.
It’s important that both children and adults are up-to-date on their immunizations. Booster shots for pertussis are critical because, unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, neither the pertussis disease nor vaccine confers lifelong immunity.
To prevent pertussis, CDPH recommends that:
• Pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they’ve received it before. Most obstetricians can administer the vaccine, but if not, it is available from the county health services agency.
• Infants should be vaccinated against pertussis as soon as possible. The first dose is recommended at two months of age but can be given as early as 6 weeks of age during pertussis outbreaks. Children need five doses of pertussis vaccine by kindergarten (ages 4-6).
• California 7th grade students receive the pertussis vaccine booster as required by state law.
• Adults receive a one-time pertussis vaccine booster, especially if they are in contact with infants or if they are health care workers who may have contact with infants or pregnant women.