Whooping cough cases set to shatter record

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SAN DIEGO — Almost 900 pertussis cases have been identified in San Diego County this year, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Friday.

countyhealthThe total so far puts the region on track to shatter the recent high for cases of pertussis — also known as “whooping cough.” In 2010, 1,179 cases were reported.

“The county and the state are experiencing an epidemic of pertussis,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. “Infants are at greatest risk for severe illness and death from pertussis, so we are urging parents to vaccinate their children and pregnant women to be vaccinated to protect their babies.”

The HHSA said there have been 895 confirmed cases of pertussis so far this year. There were 120 cases reported at this same time last year and a total of 431 in 2013.

Statewide, the California Department of Public Health reported 5,393 cases of whooping cough through early July, with one fatality — a 5-week-old infant who was not in the San Diego area.

San Diego and Ventura counties are the only regions of Southern California experiencing a higher-than-average occurrence of the disease. Much higher infection rates have been reported in Fresno, Humboldt, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo and Tehama counties, according to state health officials.

A typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild.

Antibiotics can prevent spreading the disease to others and can lessen the severity of symptoms, according to health officials.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get doses of the vaccine at the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. Health officials also recommend that preteens and adults get a booster.

Infants younger than a year old are especially vulnerable because they do not have the full five-dose series of pertussis vaccinations.

Parents can obtain the vaccine series and the booster shot for themselves and their children through their primary care physician. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a county public health center at minimal or no cost.

Information about whooping cough and vaccination clinics is available at the HHSA Immunization Branch by calling (866) 358-2966, or online at sdiz.org.

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