California Public Health Dept Responds To Whooping Cough Outbreak
June 16, 2014

California Public Health Dept Responds To Whooping Cough Outbreak

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

On Friday, California’s Department of Public Health announced that the state is currently experiencing an epidemic of whooping cough and called for pregnant Californians to get vaccinated against the disease.

“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer. “We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible.”

According to official California statistics, there have been nearly 3,500 cases of whooping cough in 2014, more than all of the reported cases for 2013. More than 800 new cases have been reported in the past two weeks, the health department said.

The prevalence of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is cyclical and peaks every 3 to 5 years. The last maximum level in California took place 2010, suggesting another peak is in progress.

Young children too young to be completely immunized are the most susceptible to acute and fatal cases of pertussis, the CDPH said. In 2014, two-thirds of hospital visits for pertussis have been in children four months or younger. Two infants have died from the disease so far.

"The summer months are usually the worst," Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist and deputy director at the CDPH told the Los Angeles Times. He added that an epidemic is declared if disease levels surpass those projected.

According to the state health department, the recommended way to protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated is through the vaccination of pregnant women. Women are supposed to be vaccinated in the third trimester of pregnancy, despite any previous vaccination. The first dose of the pertussis vaccine can be given to an infant as early as 6 weeks of age. Adults, especially those who will be around newborns, should also be vaccinated, the CDPH said.

“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Chapman said. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease.”

Pertussis typically begins with some coughing and runny nose for the first two weeks. The cough then worsens and kids may have rapid coughing spells that are punctuated with a “whooping” sound. Infants might not have typical pertussis symptoms and could have no obvious cough, the CDPH warned. In adults, pertussis may simply be a cough that persists for many weeks.

CDPH said it is currently collaborating with local health departments, schools, media outlets and other partners to let the public know about the importance of vaccination against pertussis.

"Our No. 1 goal here is to try and prevent those cases of severe disease," Chavez said.

In addition to the epidemic levels seen in California, health officials have also seen a 24-percent uptick in cases across the US, compared to the same time last year, according to CDC figures. Officials in Mobile, Alabama have reported an “alarming” rise in pertussis cases, according to reports. The city said they had 18 cases in May and June – more than they had for all of 2013.