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Whooping cough threatens epidemic level

COAST CITIES — An Encinitas child was diagnosed in June with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, according to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency. That brings the total of reportable cases in 2010 to 98. Last year, there were 143 cases in San Diego County.
The 3-year-old, who was unimmunized, attends A Children’s Garden Preschool in Encinitas.
After 910 cases of whooping cough that have left five babies dead, California is calling the outbreak an epidemic, according to California Department of Public Health director Mark Horton.
Officials fear the surge in whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is about to get much worse. Six hundred cases are under investigation. The caseload this year is 400 percent higher than last.
HHSA is working closely with the preschool and middle school to notify staff and parents of all students who were potentially exposed.
It is recommended that children get five doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years of age. It is also recommended that people 11 through 64 years of age receive a one-time dose of Tdap, given in place of a “tetanus booster,” which is administered every 10 years. No vaccine is 100 percent effective and immunity can wane over time, but being up-to-date on your vaccinations can lessen the severity of illness-related symptoms.
Named for the “whoop” sound children and adults sometimes make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell, whooping cough usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough. These symptoms may be mild and brief, or last up to two weeks, but are often followed by severe coughing fits that may be associated with vomiting. Fever, if present, is usually mild. It is treatable with antibiotics.
Whooping cough can occur at any age, but infants and young children are at highest risk of life-threatening complications, the most common of which is pneumonia. In adolescents and adults, rib fractures and difficulty sleeping may occur.
For more information about whooping cough, call the HHSA immunization branch toll-free at (866) 358-2966, or visit