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Whooping Cough on the Rise in California

Health officials in California are recommending that expectant parents talk to their doctors about a pertussis booster after seeing a rise of whooping cough cases in the state.  The disease peaks every five years, and California has seen a spike in cases  — three times as many as they’d expect to see this time of year.

Young, immunized children are protected against whooping cough through the DTaP vaccine, but experts say that protection starts to wear off by middle school.  And since infants under two months aren’t vaccinated against the disease, they’re the most vulnerable population in an outbreak.  In 2005, the last time cases spiked, there were 3,182 verified cases with 574 hospitalizations and seven deaths.  At least infants have died so far this year from whooping cough.

From CNN:

“Because pertussis vaccination does not begin until two months of age and infants are not fully immune until after six months of age, the only way to protect young infants is to do everything we can to minimize their exposure,” said Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health. “This means ensuring that their parents and caregivers are immunized.”

Here’s the good news for pregnant moms: The vaccine can be safely given before, during, and after pregnancy. Since researchers say that half of infected infants catch whooping cough from their parents, vaccinating all caregivers is the safest way to protect a newborn from the disease.

According to Google Health, whooping cough is a “highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. The coughing can make it hard to breathe. A deep “whooping” sound is often heard when the patient tries to take a breath.” Symptoms start out similar to the common cold, with severe coughing 10 to 12 days after symptoms start. It’s treated with antibiotics, but very young children need close supervision until they are fully recovered.

Photo: USACE Europe District, Flickr

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