As of Friday, California state department officials have declared the state is in the midst of a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic. Officials are urging everyone living here to get vaccinated, placing a particular emphasis on pregnant women and infants.
“Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Chapman placed great emphasis on pregnant women getting the Tdap vaccine and urged parents to “vaccinate infants as soon as possible,” in a statement.
It is recommended that all pregnant women be vaccinated with Tdap in the third trimester of each pregnancy, regardless of previous Tdap vaccination, and that infants — as early as six weeks of age — be vaccinated as soon as possible, notes the Mercury News.
Chapman said that, while other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, offer lifetime immunity, the same does not apply for pertussis, although “vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease.”
Pertussis is cyclical and peaks every three to five years. The last peak in California occurred in 2010, resulting in 10 infant deaths. Chapman says another peak is currently underway. Two infant deaths have been reported in California so far.
In the past two weeks alone, 800 cases of whooping cough have been reported, bringing the total number of reported cases to 3,458 as of Jan. 1 of this year. That figure is greater than the total number of cases reported last year.