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Whooping Cough on Break in Schools

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March 30, 2011

For the first time in eight months no pertussis cases, where others may have been exposed to the disease, were reported this past week to the County Health and Human Services Agency.

The number of whooping cough cases, as the disease is also known, increased by 13 cases to 160 for the region this year. However, in these cases, the infected person was not in a public area such as a school.

“It is too early to say that this is a turn for the pertussis epidemic because the total number of cases continues to rise,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., County Deputy Public Health Officer. “We recommend vaccination to prevent spreading the disease, especially for children and adults who are around infants.”

Last year, pertussis established a new county record with 1,144 cases, including two infant deaths.

Residents can get vaccinated at their primary care doctor or at an HHSA Public Health Center if they don’t have a regular healthcare provider.

The California Department of Public Health recommends a pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) for

everyone 10 years or older who has not yet received it, especially women of childbearing age, before, during, or immediately after pregnancy; and other people, including household contacts, caregivers, and health care workers, who have contact with pregnant women or infants. Children 7-9 years of age who did not receive all of their routine childhood shots are recommended to receive a Tdap booster dose.

Beginning July 1, all students entering 7th through 12th grades in both public and private schools must show proof that they have had a Tdap booster shot before they can start school. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that children receive a booster shot of Tdap vaccine at 11-12 yrs.

The CDC also recommends that children get one dose of DTaP vaccine at the following ages: 2 months; 4 months; 6 months; 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years.

A typical case of pertussis in children and adults starts with a cough and runny nose for one-to-two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild. The disease is treatable with antibiotics.  For more information about whooping cough, please call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit the web site at    


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