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Whooping Cough - Danger Prompts Clinics

POSTED October 5, 2010 10:53 p.m.
There was a time when the threat of pertussis would panic the parents of young children as it was often a killer, descending on their precious bundles with swift and deadly intent, signaling its presence with the dreaded “whooping cough” that would literally choke the life from little bodies.
With the development of the whooping cough vaccine, it seemed the respiratory disease would eventually fade like a nightmare upon waking, but the killer has returned in a big way, prompting health officials to remind people to immunize their loved ones.
In July, nearly 1,500 Californians had been diagnosed with whooping cough, which was five times the normal level for that time of year. To date, the number has soared to 4,017.
State health officials declared this year’s resurgence of whooping cough an epidemic with the largest outbreak in more than 50 years.
As of Sept. 19, the ninth baby in California had succumbed to the disease. All nine babies were under three months old.
Whooping cough is highly contagious and infants, especially under six months, are particularly vulnerable.
In Stanislaus County, there’d been 64 confirmed cases of pertussis in July, which was a nine-fold increase from the same period last year when only seven cases had been recorded. That number has increased to 122 to date.
According to the county Health Services Agency (HSA), 62 percent of the confirmed cases were female. While the age specific pertussis rate for infants less than one year of age is 85.1 per 100,000 population, for children 10 – 18 years of age, it is 24.1 per 100,000.
HSA officials recommend parents, family members and caregivers of infants should be vaccinated with the Tdap vaccine to provide a cocoon of protection around them.
“It is very important for new mothers and fathers, and caregivers of infants to get the Tdap shot,” said Dr. John Walker, County Public Health Officer.
In July, the HSA offered low-cost Tdap vaccine clinics in an effort to stem the rising tide of whooping cough infections but anyone who missed their local clinic can still acquire the vaccine at the main Health Services Agency campus at 820 Scenic Drive in Modesto.
Vaccinations are given to the following priority groups:
• All new post-partum women
• Fathers of newborns
• Infant caregivers, including: household contacts who might provide care for the infant such as older siblings and grandparents (under the age of 65)  and daycare providers and daycare workers.
Cost per vaccination is based on a sliding scale from $0 - $10, and no one will be denied service if they do not have the ability to pay.
Pertussis is cyclical. Cases tend to peak every two to five years. In 2005, California recorded 3,182 cases and seven deaths. Non-immunized or incompletely immunized young infants are particularly vulnerable. The pertussis vaccine is safe for children and adults. Pertussis vaccination begins at two months of age, but young infants are not adequately protected until the initial series of three shots is complete at six months of age. The series of shots that most children receive wears off by the time they finish middle school. Neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis provides lifetime immunity.  
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 is rare.
The public can also obtain their pertussis vaccination from his/her healthcare providers.
For further information, please contact 558-7400, or visit www.hsahealth.org.
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