California whooping cough cases increase | SierraSun.com

California whooping cough cases increase

Special to the Sun

Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer, warned the number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases is increasing in California.

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 three to five years as the number of susceptible people in the population increases," said Chapman. "As the last peak in California was in 2010, we are concerned that the recent increase in reported cases suggests that another cyclical peak is beginning."

Infants too young to be fully immunized remain most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. 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 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 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.

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PREVENT PERTUSSIS

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

Infants be vaccinated against pertussis as soon as possible. The first dose is recommended at 2 months of age but can be given as early as 6 weeks of age during pertussis outbreaks. Children are advised to have five doses of pertussis vaccine by kindergarten (ages 4-6).

California seventh-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.

THE SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of pertussis vary by age. For children, a typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks. The cough then worsens and children may have rapid coughing spells that end with a whooping sound.

Young infants may not have typical pertussis symptoms and may have no apparent cough. Parents may describe episodes in which the infant's face turns red or purple. For adults, pertussis may simply be a cough that persists for several weeks.

Locally, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District hasn't seen any pertussis issues this year, said Corine Harvey, executive director of student services.

TTUSD operates on a "no shots, no school policy," she said, and adheres to that by regularly reminding parents about pre-kindergarten and seventh-grade vaccinations.

In a law that became effective January 2014, California Assembly Bill 2109 requires parents who exclude children from immunization requirements to submit a signed statement from a health care provider that they received information about benefits and risks of vaccines.

For the 2013-14 school year at TTUSD, Harvey said roughly 10 percent of students or less have signed forms.

Further, should an outbreak of whooping cough, chicken pox or another vaccinated disease occur that may impact a TTUSD campus, students on the exempt list are excluded from attending school.

For more information visit http://www.cdph.ca.gov.