Sharp Rise in Whooping Cough Prompts Free Vaccines, Outreach
Due to a recent dramatic rise in cases the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) declared an epidemic of whooping cough (also known as pertussis) earlier this month. According to the CDPH, there were six times as many whooping cough cases in the Bay Area between January and June compared to the same time period last year.
Whooping cough tends to peak every two to five years. The last peak was in 2005 when California recorded 3,182 cases and seven deaths; from January 1 until June 15, 2010 there have been 910 cases and 5 deaths caused by pertussis in California. Whooping cough can be fatal, especially in infants who are too young to be vaccinated. So far this year all 5 deaths occurred in children under 3 months old.
“Whooping cough spreads very easily through coughing and sneezing. This illness can be especially serious for young children and can cause babies to cough so much they cannot breathe,” said Dr. Karen Smith, Napa County Public Health Officer. “Our best protection against whooping cough is to have as many people in the community vaccinated as possible. It is especially important for people who have close contact with infants because it creates a ‘cocoon’ of protection around the baby.”
Although it is most severe in infants under 3 months of age, adolescents and adults are also vulnerable to the disease and can spread it others in the community. According to CDPH over 75% of infants get whooping cough from family members, most commonly from their parents or siblings. Adult care givers and grandparents may also transmit pertussis to infants.
Symptoms of whooping cough begin with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks followed by weeks of coughing fits. In some cases there is a low fever. Dr. Smith said people with symptoms should see their health care provider for testing and to see whether treatment is needed.
How to get the Pertussis vaccine
From your regular Health Care Provider
- Contact your regular health care provider about pertussis vaccine for adults and children.
- Be sure to ask specifically for a vaccine that provides protection for pertussis.
From Napa County Public Health
- The pertussis vaccine is available free of charge for anyone who is unable to access it through their regular health care provider.
- If you do not have health insurance or you cannot access the vaccine from your provider, contact the Napa County Public Health Clinic about an appointment.
- Call (707) 253-4270 during regular business hours for an appointment.
For more information, visit Public Health's pertussis Web pages or call the Public Health Hotline for 24-hour recorded information in English and Spanish (707) 253-4540.