Whooping Cough Outbreak in California: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

cough sick child

The State of California just declared a whooping cough epidemic. Here’s what you need to know.

1. The Infection Seems to Be Spreading Rapidly

In the last two weeks, there have been 800 new cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in California. There have been almost 3,500 in 2014 so far.

2. Infants and Children are Most Vulnerable

Eighty-three percent of the cases have been in infants and children younger than 18 years of age. Infants too young to be fully immunized are the most vulnerable to severe and fatal pertussis, or whooping cough. Two infant deaths were reported this year.

3. Everyone Should Be Vaccinated, Especially Pregnant Women

“The number of pertussis cases is likely to continue to increase,” says Dr. Ron Chapman of the California Department of Public Health. “As an important preventive measure, we recommend that pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, and that infants be vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The California Department of Public Health Recommends that:

• Pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they’ve received it before.

• 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).

• 7th grade students should get the pertussis vaccine booster as required by California state law.

• Adults should 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.

4. The Anti-Vax Movement Might Contribute to Whooping Cough Outbreaks

California had a large whooping cough outbreak in 2010. According to research published in the Pediatrics journal, “the high number of children who were intentionally unvaccinated also contributed to the rapid spread of the infection.”

5. Symptoms of Whooping Cough

Pertussis begins with cold-like symptoms, but can progress with severe coughing fits that can last for months. It is a highly contagious bacterial disease that spreads with coughing.

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