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Whooping cough rates continue climb in state
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The number of whooping cough cases reported in California hit a milestone last week by surpassing the total from a 1950 outbreak, when there were 6, 613 cases.

The California Department of Public Health has recorded 6,631 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, since the beginning of the year through Nov 9. The state currently has a rate of 16.9 cases per 100,000 people.

This is the highest number of cases the state has seen in 63 years when 9,394 cases were reported in 1947, a peak year, and the highest incidence in 52 years when a rate of 26 cases per 100,000 was reported in 1958.

The state has recorded 10 deaths from whooping cough, all infants under the age of 3 months, and of those, nine have been Hispanic infants.

Nine fatalities were infants less than 2 months old at the time of the disease onset and had not received any doses of pertussis-containing vaccine. The other death was that of a 2 month old that had been born premature and was given the first dose of the vaccine 15 days prior to the onset of the disease.

The rates of whooping cough are highest among infants less than 6 months of age with a rate of 335.9 cases per 100,000, according to the CDPH.

While the state has been reaching new levels, the number of cases in Stanislaus County has been on the decline. As of Tuesday, the county has had 136 reported cases for a rate of 24.75 per 100,000. One of the infant deaths was reported in Stanislaus County. The median case rate by county is 14.4 cases per 100,000, according to the CDPH.

The Stanislaus County Health Services Agency reported seeing a decline in the number of cases diagnosed lately and credits a series of vaccination clinics with the decrease.

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that attacks the respiratory system. The disease is characterized by severe coughing spasms and last for several weeks, or months. It's spread from person to person through coughing and/or sneezing. It's a highly contagious disease that infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to if they haven't been immunized, the Centers for Disease Control reported.

The CDC says the pertussis vaccine is safe for children and adults.

Pertussis vaccination begins at two months of age, but young infants are not adequately protected until the initial series of three shots is complete at 6 months of age. The series of shots that most children receive wears off by the time they finish middle school and they will need a booster shot. Neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis provides lifetime immunity.

Pregnant women may be vaccinated against pertussis before pregnancy, during pregnancy or after giving birth. Fathers may be vaccinated at any time, but preferably before the birth of their baby. Individuals should contact their regular health care provider or local health department to inquire about pertussis vaccination.

For information about receiving the pertussis vaccine call 558-7700 or 559-7400.

Whooping cough symptoms

Early symptoms can last for 1 to 2 weeks and usually include:

• Runny nose

• Low-grade fever (generally minimal throughout the course of the disease)

• Mild, occasional cough

• Apnea - a pause in breathing (in infants)

As the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of pertussis appear and include:

• Paroxysms (fits) of many, rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched "whoop"

• Vomiting

• Exhaustion after coughing fits.