California whooping cough epidemic declared and Parents of Young Children are Worried

A cough from your young child in the middle of the night may be causing you anxiety if you live in California. The golden state has just declared that whooping cough (official diagnosis is pertussis) has reached epidemic proportions. Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health issued a statement on June 15 after a total of 910 cases had been confirmed. “Whooping cough is now an epidemic in California. Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family member and caregivers of infants need a booster shot.”

Whooping cough is a very old disease that is particularly dangerous to young children.  Unfortunately, pertussis is making a comeback in California.  A vaccine that prevents whooping cough has been available since 1940 but a decrease in routine vaccinations in children and the lack of a booster shot for pertussis in middle school children may be fueling the whooping cough outbreak in California.

Public health experts state that we are heading into the worst time of the year for the disease outbreak.  The months of August and September usually register the largest number of pertussis outbreaks. Infants too young to receive the vaccine are most vulnerable. Babies infected by the bacteria are vulnerable to pneumonia and brain damage, as well as death.

In the midst of this epidemic a simple and money saving cure could have perhaps prevented it.   Assemblyman Juan Arambula of Fresno introduced legislation last year to require that middle school kids receive the pertussis vaccination. Babies routinely receive the vaccination, but it wears off by the time children enter junior high school.

He states that California could save $12 million a year or more in state health care costs: require that kids entering middle school get a common vaccination against a nasty respiratory disease, whooping cough.

In the first five months of the year, there were at least 584 cases, including five deaths, all infants. There were deaths in Fresno and Stanislaus counties. During the same period in 2009, there were no deaths and 190 cases statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health.

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California Department of Public Health

New York Times

San Francisco Chronicle

Office of Assemblyman Juan Arambula of Fresno, California

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Pertussis (Whooping Cough) – What You Need To Know”, “The Myths about Pertussis Vaccine”