When people don’t vaccinate their children for those “old diseases” something pretty amazing starts to happen…they come back!  We are seeing that now in California with Pertussis better known as Whooping Cough.  Whooping cough is a contagious disease that can be passed easily from person to person.  It is very serious for babies and can cause them to cough so much they cannot breath.  Hundreds of babies are hospitalized every year for whooping cough, and some die from it.  Whooping cough can cause adults or teens to have severe coughing fits that lead to vomiting or broken ribs.  They can be hospitalized for pneumonia and miss weeks of school or work.

These are three images of children with Pertussis. The child on the left has broken blood vessels in the eyes and bruising on face due to pertussis coughing.

After the deaths of five infants, California health authorities declared an epidemic of whooping cough in the state on Wednesday, urging residents — particularly those of Latino background — to get vaccinated against the disease.  The announcement came after authorities noticed a sharp spike in reports of Pertussis, which often is mistaken for a cold or the flu and is highly contagious. All told, 910 cases have been confirmed, with several hundred more under investigation. If the pace keeps up, the outbreak could be the largest in the state in 50 years, the California Department of Public Health reported.

Dr. Gilberto Chavez, the deputy director of the department’s Center for Infectious Disease, said health officials had seen a fourfold increase compared with 2009. And the worst may be to come. “The peak season starts in the summer,” Dr. Chavez said, noting that July and August usually have the highest number of cases. “And we expect to see a much larger number of cases if we don’t intervene quickly.”

Dr. Chavez said that lack of information and inoculations in agricultural regions in the state’s Central Valley — home to many Latino farm workers — might be a culprit in the high incidence in that community. And indeed, Fresno County — in the heart of the valley — has the highest number of cases in the state, with 72 reported in May alone.

Periodic outbreaks of pertussis are not uncommon. The disease is endemic worldwide, and some 5,000 to 7,000 cases are reported in the United States in a normal year, according to the CDC.  Epidemics occur every three to five years in the United States, with the most recent in 2005, when there were more than 25,000 reported cases nationwide, and nearly 3,200 in California, where 7 people died.  The CDC is reporting that California is the only state currently reporting an epidemic of pertussis at this point, though reporting of the disease can be spotty or delayed.

This image is the Pertussis bacteria. Infants are typically inoculated against pertussis at two months, but adequate protection does not occur until six months, leaving them susceptible. Boosters are recommended in middle school, teens years and through adulthood as immunity— either from inoculation or having had the disease — diminishes over time.

Pertussis usually manifests itself slowly, like a mild cold, with a runny nose or mild cough but can steadily progress into coughing fits resulting in its telltale “whoop.”   A safe and effective vaccine called Tdap can protect you, your children and any child that you might come in contact with from this serious disease.  Tdap is a tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis combination vaccine for adolescents and adults.  All adults should have one dose of Tdap in place of their routine Td vaccine.  Parents, grandparents, and household contacts of new babies are at increased risk for contracting and transmitting pertussis and are particularly encouraged to make sure that they have received a Tdap booster.  Protect yourself and your children for by getting vaccinated against pertussis. Get your Tdap vaccine today!!

Jennifer Lopez has a new PSA video promoting Tdap vaccination which you can view on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2VJIeCzKD4