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Local Health Officials Worried: Whooping Cough Epidemic Strikes California

Jun 17, 2014

For the first time in four years, whooping cough has reached an epidemic level. FM89’s Diana Aguilera reports how this peak has local health officials worried.

California health officials have recently confirmed that cases of pertussis also known as whooping cough have reached epidemic proportions in the state.

The last time California reached a whooping cough epidemic was in 2010. Health officials say it peaks every three to five years.

The Department of Public Health reported more than 3,400 cases so far this year. That’s a thousand more cases than all of last year.

That number has local health officials troubled, with cases hitting the hardest in Fresno County. As of this week, the county has reported 233 cases with 43 percent affecting children ages five to 14 and 30 percent reaching children younger than five. Last year, only 43 cases of whooping cough were reported for the entire year.

"The young ones and the infants are usually the ones that are going to have the worst outcome." Natalia Vargas-Leanos

Natalia Vargas-Leanos is a health education specialist for Fresno County’s immunization program.

"The young ones and the infants are usually the ones that are going to have the worst outcome. They may be the ones ending in the hospital and a lot of times they would be the ones that could lose their life for pertussis."

Whooping cough symptoms can vary by age.

"Children will typically start with a cough and a runny nose – like one to two weeks – then it will get worse," Vargas-Leones says. "The coughing spell gets worse, rapidly coughing spell and usually will end with a whooping sound."

Adults may have a cough for several weeks and even though infants have no apparent symptoms parents say the infant’s face turns red or purple.

Health officials are urging pregnant mothers to get vaccinated during their third trimester. Infants can be vaccinated as young as six weeks old.