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The number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in the state continues to climb, Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer reported this week. There have been two reported cases of pertussis in San Benito County this year.

In the past two weeks, 1,100 new cases of pertussis have been reported to CDPH, according to a press release. This brings the total number of cases to 4,558 (as of June 24). This far surpasses the total number of reported cases in 2013, which was 2,532. One additional infant has died, bringing the total number of infant deaths to three. Children four-months-old or younger account for nearly two-thirds of all pertussis hospitalizations. 

“Infants are at the greatest risk of illness and death from pertussis,” said Chapman. “Vaccination is the best form of protection. We’re encouraging all parents to vaccinate their children, and for pregnant women to be vaccinated to protect their babies. This will ensure maximum protection against this potentially fatal disease.” 

The Tdap vaccination for pregnant women is the best way to protect infants who are too young to be vaccinated. All pregnant women should be vaccinated with Tdap in the third trimester of each pregnancy, regardless of previous Tdap vaccination. Inoculated women pass immunity to their unborn babies that protect them until they can be vaccinated. Infants should be vaccinated as soon as possible. The first dose of pertussis vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks of age. 

Older children, pre-adolescents and adults should also be vaccinated against pertussis according to current recommendations. 

“It’s particularly important that people who will be around newborns also be vaccinated,” added Chapman. “This includes babysitters, older siblings, parents and grandparents. When those people are vaccinated they will help protect infants who are too young for immunization.” 

The symptoms of pertussis vary by age. For children, pertussis typically starts with a cough and runny nose that can last up to two weeks. The cough then worsens and turns into rapid coughing spells that end with a tell-tale “whooping” sound. Young infants may not have typical pertussis symptoms and may have no apparent cough. Parents describe episodes in which the infant’s face turns red or purple. For adults, pertussis may simply be a cough that lasts for several weeks. 

2014 whooping cough cases as of July 8:
San Benito County: 2
Monterey County: 75
San Benito County: 2
Santa Clara County: 269
Santa Cruz County: 59

Source: California Department of Public Health