Health officials in El Dorado County and across the state of California are seeing an increase in cases of pertussis (also known as whooping cough), including severe illness in babies with pertussis, and emphasize it is important for both children and adults to be up to date on their immunizations.
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Since the beginning of 2014, 10 cases of pertussis have been identified in El Dorado County, more than twice the number reported last year, according to El Dorado County Health Officer Dr. Alicia Paris-Pombo. Six cases were reported in South Lake Tahoe and four cases were reported on the West Slope of the County this year. No deaths have been reported in El Dorado County. As of June 10, a total of 3,458 cases of pertussis have been identified statewide this year, including one death of an infant.
Pertussis disease is cyclical and typically peaks every three to five years. The last peak in pertussis occurred in 2010, when El Dorado County had 54 cases and the state had over 9,400 cases. There were 10 pertussis related deaths across California in 2010, all among infants. There were no pertussis related fatalities in El Dorado County that year.
Pertussis is a contagious respiratory tract infection, spread through coughs and sneezes. Symptoms typically start with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Pertussis is especially dangerous for unimmunized and incompletely immunized infants.
Babies and very young children (age 6 and under) can be protected against pertussis by completing the DTaP vaccine series of five shots, typically given at 2, 4, 6 and 15-18 months of age, with a booster dose at kindergarten entry. Adults and children over the age of 11 who previously completed their vaccination series can receive protection against pertussis with one dose of a booster vaccine called Tdap. Both the DTaP and Tdap vaccines can be found at most healthcare provider offices.
To prevent the spread of pertussis, it is recommended that:
• Pregnant women receive the pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they received it before. Immunity passes to the baby providing some protection after birth and before the child can be vaccinated.
• Infants get vaccinated against pertussis as soon as possible. The first dose is routinely recommended at two months of age, but since pertussis is circulating in the community, infants can be vaccinated as young as six weeks of age.
• Adults receive the pertussis vaccine booster, especially if they have contact with infants or are healthcare workers in contact with infants or pregnant women.
The El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency, Public Health Division is collaborating closely with local healthcare providers, including Barton Health and Marshall Medical Center, and advises individuals to consult with their healthcare provider to schedule a vaccination. The Public Health Division offers low-cost vaccinations for people who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines, and for children with Medi-Cal. To reach the Public Health Division call 530-621-6100 in Placerville or 530-573-3155 in South Lake Tahoe.