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Whooping cough case numbers draw attention

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California is in the midst of another serious pertussis outbreak, KABC reported on June 2. Through the end of May, the state has received reports of 2,649 cases of whooping cough. KABC notes that this is greater than the total for all of 2013.

California is not alone is struggling with this highly contagious respiratory illness. Data compiled from public health sources on June 2 shows that there have been 9,678 pertussis cases in 2014. While California represents 27 percent of that total, 26 states have reported over 100 cases.

Whooping cough can result in death. California has had two infants die from the effects of pertussis in 2014. Texas has seen one death, also an infant. Infants are at greatest risk because they have not been immunized or have only received one or two of the shots. The California pertussis epidemic in 2009-2010 killed ten infants.

The top five states represent 52 percent of all pertussis cases. After California, Texas is reporting 785 followed by Ohio with 703. Colorado reports 491 and Utah is reporting 394 whooping cough cases.

All five states are also states that allow parents to exempt children from required immunizations for school based upon philosophical or personal beliefs. A KEYE story on May 1 noted that nearly 30,0000 students in Texas are not properly immunized because of such exemptions.

Two recommended immunizations are of particular importance. The Centers for Disease Control suggest that children ages 10-12 received a pertussis booster, since recent studies have found that the current formula wanes in efficacy about five years after the last shot. In previous years, large numbers of middle school children caught whooping cough, and brought it home to siblings.

A second recommendation is that pregnant women receive a whooping cough booster before their baby is born. This is believed to provide the newborn with a certain degree of immunity, and it prevents the new mother from being a source of infection for the infant. In fact, most public health authorities suggest that all adults who will be near an infant, fathers, grandparents, other relatives or caregivers, received a booster. Cocooning an infant in a circle of immunized adults provides a great deal of protection to the baby.

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