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Several Factors Contributing to California’s Record-Breaking Whooping Cough Epidemic

Whooping cough, or pertussis, has affected more than 5,600 Californians this year, the most since 1950, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Health officials say that cyclical variations in disease prevalence, improved detection methods and low vaccination rates could help explain the high number of whooping cough cases reported this year.

In a California Healthline Special Report by Mina Kim, experts discussed factors that could be contributing to the latest pertussis outbreak. The Special Report includes comments from:

  • James Cherry, professor of pediatrics at UCLA;
  • Kathleen Harriman, chief epidemiologist for vaccine-preventable diseases at DPH; and
  • Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and attending physician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

In September, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) signed legislation (AB 354) that will require all seventh graders to show proof that they have received a whooping cough booster shot starting in July 2012 (Kim, California Healthline, 10/20).

The complete transcript of this Special Report is available as a PDF.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

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