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County Urges Health Care Providers to Vaccinate Parents and Children; Cases of Whopping Cough Nearly Double over 2009


A 1-month-old baby boy, who was diagnosed with whooping cough, died on July 27 at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, leading officials to continue urging parents to get themselves and their children vaccinated.


“This death is a tragedy for the family and the broader community,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., County Deputy Public Health Officer. “This year we have seen a great increase in whooping cough cases and we are working with the medical community to assure that all individuals are vaccinated for whooping cough.”


“Infants are most vulnerable to complications from this disease because they are too young to get vaccinated,” said Mark Sawyer, M.D. pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital. “That’s why vaccinating caregivers is a priority. By protecting yourself from the disease, you also protect your baby.”

The last whooping cough death in San Diego County was in 2001. San Diego County has 266 cases of pertussis reported so far in 2010, with 15 infants hospitalized due to the disease. That number far surpasses last year’s total of 143 and is on course to break the record of 371 cases in 2005.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get five doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at 2 mo., 4 mo., 6 mo., 15-18 mo., and 4-6 years of age. Routine immunization with a Tdap booster is for adolescents at 11 to 12 years old. All older children and adults should receive a one-time dose of Tdap, given in place of a “tetanus booster,” which should be administered every 10 years.

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.

For more information about whooping cough, please call the HHSA Immunization Branch toll-free at (866) 358-2966, or visit

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It's mainly affected infants

It's mainly affected infants younger than 6 months old before they're adequately protected by immunizations. On adults and adolescents it may cause milder or atypical symptoms, such as a prolonged cough without the coughing spells or the whoop. -Yochanan Berkowitz