Whooping Cough

Here’s the raw press release:

Date: June 18, 2010

Contact: Mike Goldsby, 268-2195

State Public Health declares Pertussis Epidemic

Local public health officials are closely monitoring reported cases of Pertussis, commonly called Whooping Cough, in light of a dramatic rise of the illness in other parts of the state. Counties with notably high rates include Del Norte, Sonoma and Marin.

“So far, we have two confirmed cases in Humboldt County,” said Health Officer Dr. Ann Lindsay. “But we are urging people to take precautions and get vaccinated, because Pertussis cases usually peak in August and September.” She said the incidence of cases tends to fluctuate on a 3- to 4-year cycle, with the highest incidence in Humboldt in 2005.

There have been 5 reported deaths so far this year in California, much higher than the number reported in the same time period last year.

Ron Largusa, Epidemiologist for Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, said local data clearly shows pertussis affects children age 9 and under more than any age group.

“About 65% of our cases in the last ten years have been in children under the age of 10,” said Largusa.  A possible contributing factor is insufficient vaccination coverage in school-age children.

Public Health Branch Director Susan Buckley encourages parents to make sure their children are immunized.  “The state-supplied vaccine is available at Public Health and we will waive the $15 administration fee for anyone who cannot pay,” said Buckley.

For an appointment for pertussis and other vaccinations, call the Public Health Clinic at 268-2108. Walk-in requests for services are still welcome and staff will accommodate these requests as soon as possible.

Pertussis Fact Sheet

The children’s vaccine called “DTaP” protects against diphtheria and tetanus as well as pertussis. Risk of death from pertussis is greatest in infants. All five deaths in California this year have been in infants under 3 months of age.

Getting the pertussis vaccine does not guarantee 100% immunity to the disease, but a vaccination will guarantee against a severe case of pertussis in infancy.  Even contracting the disease does not provide complete immunity from getting it again.

The best way to protect infants from pertussis is to give the DTaP vaccine on time at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.  An additional dose is recommended at the 15-18 month check up and again at the pre-kindergarten doctor visit.

Protection provided by the childhood series fades over time.  Adolescents and adults can get a booster vaccine for pertussis and tetanus.  Parents, siblings and caretakers should be vaccinated against pertussis to protect infants who are too young to be immunized but at high risk for serious infection.  Other precautions for pertussis include washing your hands, covering your coughs and staying away from infants when you are ill.

Named for the distinctive sound made after a severe coughing spell, whooping cough starts with very mild cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and sometimes a cough.  Over the next 1 to 2 weeks, the cough progressively worsens and becomes severe. Infants and young children are at risk of developing life-threatening complications, including pneumonia.

For an appointment for pertussis and other vaccinations, call the Public Health Clinic at 268-2108. Walk-in requests for services are still welcome and staff will accommodate these requests as soon as possible.

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