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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

6/15/2014 (11 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Health officials reporting 800 new cases a month over average of 100 a month

The Golden State of California has been inundated with more cases of whooping cough than ever before. For the first time in four years, there is a statewide epidemic of pertussis - also known as whooping cough. According to state health authorities, infants under the age of six months face the greatest risk of hospitalization or death.

Whooping cough can be fatal to the very young. Doctors advise that everyone be vaccinated.

Whooping cough can be fatal to the very young. Doctors advise that everyone be vaccinated.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/15/2014 (11 months ago)

Published in Health

Keywords: Whooping cough, California, epidemic


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated," Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health declared. "We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible."

To date, California counties have reported 3,458 cases of the disease this year, including two infant deaths. While this figure is less than the 9,163 cases reported in 2010, which was the last reported epidemic year, health officials say this year's caseload is on track to meet that level.

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"The summer months are usually the worst," Dr. Gil Chavez, an epidemiologist and deputy director at the department says.

A disease is considered an epidemic if it exceeds anticipated levels. It must be reiterated that this is not the same as declaring a public health emergency, Chavez said.

State epidemiologists usually see 80 to 100 cases of whooping cough monthly. In the last two weeks, California counties reported more than 800.

The earliest age an infant can be vaccinated is six weeks. Health officials say every pregnant woman should get a Tdap vaccination in the third trimester of pregnancy, as the mother's immunity will transfer to her baby - at least temporarily.

It must also be stressed that unlike the measles vaccine, pertussis vaccines do not provide lifelong immunity. It's partially for this reason that whooping cough is cyclical: It reaches epidemic levels every three to five years.

Caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, whooping cough piggybacks to the tiny hairs, or cilia, that line human air passages. The hairs usually work to keep the passageways clean by sweeping them, but B. pertussis produces toxins that paralyze the hairs and inflame surrounding tissues.

Patients can't clear mucous from their lungs as a result, and their airways constrict. This causes a "whooping" noise as they attempt to breathe after a coughing fit.

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