Calif. continues to battle whooping cough outbreak


The Bryson family is worried for their 2-week-old daughter. California is in the middle of a whooping cough epidemic that is hitting babies the hardest.

"They can't get vaccinated at this age, it's up to the parents and family members that are watching them to get vaccinated, so yeah, it's scary," Kylie Bryson said. "They can get really sick. Babies die from whooping cough."

The latest numbers from the California Department of Public Health show 10 babies have died this year from whooping cough, also known as pertussis. No more than three die in a typical year.

The state also has had the most cases of whooping cough since 1950, with 6,200 cases recorded since January.

"We realize today that immunity from vaccine and from the disease wanes over time and that leaves adolescents and adults very vulnerable to the disease and often they're the ones who pass it on to vulnerable infants," California Dept. of Public Health spokesperson Dr. Eileen Yamada said.

Nine of the 10 babies who died are from Latino families, though the state cannot say why.

Dr. Dean Blumberg is a pediatric infectious diseases expert. He has noticed the spikes in areas where many parents get waivers, believing vaccines are dangerous.

"What we've been seeing with whooping cough, or pertussis, is that it's really been clustering in those areas of the state, in those counties that have the highest rate of personal belief exemptions," Blumberg said.

While Los Angeles County has the highest number of cases, whooping cough occurs more often in San Luis Obispo, Marin and Madera counties when the per capita rate is taken into consideration.

With numbers like that, doctors would not take any chance with the Brysons.

"They made sure before we left the hospital that both of us were vaccinated," Bryson said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill last month requiring all 7th-12th graders to get whooping cough booster starting next school year. Personal belief exemptions would still be allowed.

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.