San Diego County | 15 June 2012

Two students at a local elementary school were diagnosed with whooping cough, potentially exposing others to the contagious respiratory infection, County Health and Human Services Agency officials reported today.

The new cases bring the region’s total of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, to 47 for the year so far. Pertussis was diagnosed in a 6-year-old and a 7-year-old, who both attend Murdock Elementary School in the La Mesa – Spring Valley School District. The 7-year-old was up-to-date on immunizations and the 6-year-old was due for a booster shot, health officials said.

“Whooping cough is a very serious disease that is often spread to infants by other children or adults who do not even realize they have it,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “Pertussis vaccinations protect everyone, but the effectiveness wanes over time, which is why health officials now recommend that preteens and adults get a booster.”

The CDC also recommends that children get one dose of DTaP vaccine at the following ages: 2 months; 4 months; 6 months; 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years. The ultimate goal is to prevent deaths which can result as a complication of pertussis. Infants under one year old are especially vulnerable.

The state of Washington is currently in the middle of a pertussis epidemic, similar to the one in California during 2010 and 2011.

Parents can obtain the vaccine series and the Tdap booster shot for themselves and their children through their primary care physicians. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone who is not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a County Public Health Center at no cost.

A typical case of pertussis starts 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. Fever, if present, is usually mild. The disease is treatable with antibiotics.

For more information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics, call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit www.sdiz.org.

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