Whooping cough outbreak kills ten infants in California

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ten infants have died and nearly 6,000 others have been infected in California, United States with whooping cough, or pertussis, since the beginning of this year. Health officials are referring to the event as the worst outbreak of the cough in 60 years.

File photo of a young boy suffering from whooping cough.
Image: CDC.

A spokesman from the California Department of Public Health, Michael Sicilia, says all of the deaths occurred in infants under three months and that nine of the deaths were found in infants under eight weeks old. This leads to the conclusion that the children were too young to receive the vaccine for the disease.

Sicilia indicated that an estimated 50% of children received the disease from parents or caregivers. Earlier in July of this year California recommended that anyone over seven years old who was not fully vaccinated for Pertussis get a Tdap pertussis booster.

Some parents are refusing to have their children vaccinated against the disease and the vaccine has worn off in some adults. Alison Patti, a spokesperson from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pointed out that the vaccine does not protect individuals indefinitely and health officials are urging that people get the vaccine again if they have not received it within the past five years.

According to the CDC, for the first week or two the symptoms of the cough are similar to the common cold; soon after the child begins to "cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they're forced to inhale with a loud 'whooping' sound." Pertussis carries side effects, such as a 20 percent chance of pneumonia and about a one percent chance of convulsions, which makes it very deadly to infants.

Doctors and parents often miss the symptoms of whooping cough in infants under six months old due to the absence of the "whooping" sound. Alison Patti said that the "whooping" characteristic is absent in adults which makes them think they don't have pertussis. She recommends that anyone with a persistent cough get tested for the whooping cough.


Pertussis (Whooping Cough) – What You Need To Know