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New Whooping Cough Vaccination Recommendations Issued

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July 21, 2010

New guidelines from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have been issued for pertussis vaccinations in an effort to stem a statewide whooping cough epidemic this year, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency officials said today.

In addition to the regular schedule of childhood and adult immunizations, the CDPH now recommends an adolescent/adult pertussis booster shot for all individuals 7 years of age and older who is not fully immunized, including those over 64 years of age; women of childbearing age, before, during or immediately after pregnancy; and people who have contact with pregnant women or infants.  (Read the state news release.)

“We have been fortunate in San Diego County that we have not had any deaths associated with whooping cough, but there have been six infants in other locations in California who that have died from the disease,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., San Diego County Public Health Officer. “Infants do not have adequate protection from pertussis because they have not completed the vaccinations against the disease pertussis. Also they are more likely to have complications from pertussis. It’s very important for those who are around infants to make sure they are fully vaccinated.”

There are five new cases of pertussis locally where there is a potential for public exposure (see below).  These cases bring the total in San Diego County total this year to 213 cases. Last year, the region reported 143.  There have been 13 hospitalizations due to pertussis in San Diego County so far this year, and 117 in California. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get five doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at 2 mo., 4 mo., 6 mo., 15-18 mo., and 4-6 years of age. The CDPH is also recommending expansion of the CDC age range for Tdap vaccination to people seven7 years of age and older.  These individuals should receive a one-time dose of Tdap, given in place of a “tetanus booster,” which is administered every 10 years.  Again, no vaccine is 100 percent effective and immunity can wane over time, but being up-to-date on your vaccinations can lessen the severity of illness-related symptoms.   

Named for the "whoop" sound children and adults sometimes make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell, whooping cough usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough. These symptoms may be mild and brief, or last up to two weeks, but are often followed by severe coughing fits that may be associated with vomiting. Fever, if present, is usually mild.  It is treatable with antibiotics.

For more information about whooping cough, please call the HHSA Immunization Branch toll-free at (866) 358-2966, or visit the web site at

This week’s new cases are:

  • A 3-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends the Silverman Preschool in the Tifereth Israel Synagogue in San Diego. The student was last in class on June 16 but has been attending summer camp at the school. 
  • An 7-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends Foothill Oak Elementary School in the Vista Unified School District. The student is attending summer school.
  • An 8-year-old and 10-year-old, both up-to-date on vaccinations and attend Carrillo Elementary School in the San Marcos Unified School District and attended the North Coast Calvary KidsGames camp from June 28 to July 2. 
  • A 17-year-old who was up-to-date on vaccinations and attends La Jolla High School in the San Diego Unified School District. The student is attending summer school.

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