Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer, today warned that the number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases continue to increase in California.
CDPH has received reports of 2,649 cases of pertussis occurring from January through May 27, 2014, more than the number of cases reported in all of 2013. More than 800 cases were reported in April alone, the highest monthly count since the 2010 epidemic.
“The number of pertussis cases is likely to continue to increase,” says Dr. Ron Chapman. “As an important preventive measure, we recommend that pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, and that infants be vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Infants too young to be fully immunized remain most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. Sixty-six of the hospitalized cases to date in 2014 have been in children four months of age or younger. Two infant deaths have been reported this year, one with onset in 2013, the second with onset in 2014.
Eighty-three percent of the cases have occurred in infants and children younger than 18 years of age. Of the pediatric cases, 8 percent who were younger than 6 months-old and 70 percent were 7 through 16 years of age.
It’s important that both 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 offers lifelong immunity.
To prevent pertussis, CDPH recommends that:
• 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 two months of age but can be given as early as 6 weeks of age during pertussis outbreaks. Children need five doses of pertussis vaccine by kindergarten (ages 4-6).
• California 7th 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 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.
Pertussis numbers will be updated every two weeks on the CDPH website.