Whooping Cough in California on the Rise
The number of reported cases of whooping cough this year in California is almost three times the number reported in 2004, consistent with a national trend, the AP/Modesto Bee reports. The state has confirmed 1,276 cases and four infant deaths through August, compared with 450 cases and two infant deaths for the same period last year (AP/Modesto Bee, 9/20).
Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection caused by the Bordatella pertussis bacteria. It "was once one of the most common childhood diseases" and is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the Contra Costa Times.
The disease is most common among children but can occur in people of any age. One-third of whooping cough cases in California this year have involved children less than one year old, 80% of whom required hospitalization (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 9/20).
Celia Woodfill, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health Services, said, "The general consensus is that the increased number of cases is due to better awareness and increased testing." She added, "When the health department finds one case, it keeps investigating" (Piller, Los Angeles Times, 9/20).
Most infants are given immunizations against pertussis at two, four, six and 12 months old, but protection wears off once a child reaches adolescence. The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recently recommended that all adolescents receive a booster shot against the disease (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 9/20).