The number of California whooping cough cases has officially reached epidemic proportions, the California Department of Public Health reported.
Whooping cough, also known to doctors as pertussis, has experienced a resurgence this year with more than 3,400 cases reported between January 1 and June 10, 2014, according a statement released by the department.
The department said whooping cough is a cyclical illness, peaking every three to five years. The last big spike in cases took place in 2010.
Los Angeles county accounts for around 350 of the new cases so far this year with Long Beach taking a big hit. The city has seen more than 90 new infections, making up nearly 20 cases per 100,000 people.
Pertussis is a highly infectious bacterial disease that can be spread to others by coughing. Symptoms of the disease vary by age group.
Adults can find themselves experiencing respiratory problems that can last weeks, while infants who are too young to be vaccinated can experience serious illness or even death. The common name for the disease comes from the “whooping” sound children can make when experiencing fits of violent coughing associated with the disease.
Infants may not have typical pertussis symptoms and may have no obvious coughing. Parents describe episodes in which their infant’s faces shifted to a red or purple color.
The organization said two-thirds of pertussis hospitalizations have been from children four months or younger. Two infant deaths have been reported.
“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the department, in the statement. “We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible.”
In addition, the department urged infants to be vaccinated as soon as possible, which can be as early as six weeks old.
Older children and adults are recommended to be vaccinated especially if they will be around newborn babies.
California Whooping Cough Cases Reaches Epidemic Proportions