Thursday, October 7, 2010

UPDATE: Calif. Sees Most Whooping Cough Cases Since 1955

More than 5,270 cases of whooping cough have been reported in California's growing epidemic, which has killed nine infants this year.

This week's report from the California Department of Public Health found that the highly contagious illness hasn't infected this many in the state since 1955, when 4,949 cases were reported for the entire year.

Whooping cough is a cyclical illness that peaks in the number of infections every five years.

Symptoms are similar to the common cold, making it a challenge to diagnose. A persistent cough that lasts weeks is the tell-tale symptom of the illness, which is also known as pertussis.

The bacterial infection tends to peak during summer months, but reporting lags make it difficult to determine if the peak has passed.

Typically, babies are given a series of vaccinations, then receive booster shots between ages 4 and 6 and again after age 10.

All of the whooping cough-related deaths in California occurred in babies too young to be fully immunized against the illness, which is why state health officials urge parents and caretakers get booster shots. Immunity wanes for the pertussis vaccine, so boosters are recommended every 10 years for adults.

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