California Declares Pertussis Epidemic

More than 800 new cases have been reported during the past two weeks, the California Department of Public Health’s director reported June 13.

Pertussis (whooping cough) cases in California have reached an epidemic level, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health and state health officer, reported June 13. He announced that, as of June 10, there have been 3,458 cases of pertussis reported to CDPH in 2014 -- including more than 800 new cases during the past two weeks. The 3,458 cases so far are more than were reported in all of 2013.

According to CDPH, pertussis is cyclical and peaks every three to five years. The previous peak in California occurred in 2010.

"Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority. We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible," Chapman said.

Infants too young to be fully immunized are the most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis; two-thirds of pertussis hospitalizations have been in children four months and younger, and two infant deaths have been reported.

The first dose of pertussis vaccine can be given as early as six weeks of age. "Older children, pre-adolescents, and adults should also be vaccinated against pertussis according to current recommendations. It is particularly important that persons who will be around newborns also be vaccinated," according to CDPH.

"Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity. However, vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease," Chapman added.

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