California is enduring a whooping cough (“pertussis”) epidemic, with nearly 3500 cases reported to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) by June 10, 2014. According to public health experts, whooping cough occurs in a pattern that peaks every 3 – 5 years and since the last epidemic occurred in 2010, this epidemic is on schedule.
Whooping cough symptoms vary by age. Infants may have no obvious cough at all; rather, some parents report that the infants’ faces become red or purple. Children usually have a cough and a runny nose for 1 – 2 weeks, then a worsened, sometimes rapid cough that ends with “whooping.” Adults with pertussis might simply have a nagging cough that lasts for weeks.
While the California Health and Safety code requires elementary and high school students in both private and public school to be vaccinated against pertussis, there is no lifelong immunity from the illness by either prior vaccination or prior illness. Furthermore, the CDPH notes that 2/3 of 2014 pertussis hospitalizations are children aged 4 months or younger. Consequently, the CDPH is most concerned with preventing illness and death of infants through immunizing them as soon as possible (aged 6 weeks at the earliest), along with pregnant women in their third trimesters (whether or not they were previously vaccinated), and anyone who will come into contact with newborn babies. Of course, older children and adults are also urged to receive the vaccination.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T rely on prior vaccinations or illness to prevent whooping cough.
DO receive a vaccination against whooping cough if you are pregnant and in your third trimester, whether or not you previously received a vaccination.
DO note that whooping cough symptoms vary by age and might not even involve an obvious cough or “whooping” sound.
DO have your infant vaccinated if he/she is at least 6 weeks of age.
DO have a vaccination if you will come into contact with newborn babies.
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