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October 18, 2013 (San Diego) --  A 15-year-old student at Helix Charter High School in La Mesa has contracted whooping cough.  The disease was also reported at three other schools in San Diego County this week. Countywide, 202 cases have been reported so far this year – up from 127 cases for the same period last year, or roughly a 50 percent increase.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, was also reported in students at La Costa Canyon High and Wolf Canyon Elementary, as well as in an employee at Lincoln Acres school.

"We are seeing a slightly elevated level of pertussis activity in San Diego County," county public health officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. "The best defense against the spread of pertussis is to make sure you are up-to-date on vaccinations and booster shots."

However, four of the five new cases were current on vaccinations, county officials report.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children receive the DTaP vaccine at ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months and between 4 to 6 years. Preteens should get a Tdap booster.

Vaccines and boosters are available at pharmacies.  If you don’t have medical insurance, you can get shots free at any County Public Health Center.

Symptoms of pertussis include a runny nose followed by severe cough that may end with a whooping sound.  The disease can be treated with antibiotics, so prompt medical treatment is advised.

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