Whooping cough grows into Calif. epidemic

Flyers in several languages urging whooping cough vaccinations are seen at a news conference by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to publicize a recent, sharp increase in the number of whooping cough cases reported in California, in Los Angeles Thursday, July 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

July 29, 2010 4:23:39 PM PDT
The state health department has declared whopping cough, or pertussis, to be an epidemic. Nearly 1,500 cases and seven infant deaths have been recorded so far this year.

That's a 300 percent increase in cases compared to the same period last year. In Santa Clara County, 97 cases and no deaths have been recorded, a four-fold increase.

Santa Clara County County health director Dr. Marty Fenstersheib is urging new parents and those who come in contact with infants under age one to get vaccinated.

Adults can lose their immunity, even if they had the pertussis vaccination as an infant, so a booster shot is recommended.

"Infants are most at risk from serious illness and death from whooping cough, " Dr. Fenstersheib says.

Infants are typically vaccinated for pertussis at two, four and six months. Only then are they considered protected.

Individuals with health coverage should see their own doctors, the health department says, while the uninsured can get vaccinated at county health clinics.

For more information on vaccinations, you can contact county health officials at 408-885-3980. Additional information on whooping cough is posted on the county's health website at www.sccphd.org .