Stanislaus County is seeing an uptick in whooping cough cases, consistent with a statewide count.
The Health Services Agency has confirmed 23 people in the county have suffered from the illness this year. Also known as pertussis, the illness may start with a cough and runny nose in children. It gets worse, with rapid coughing spells punctuated by a whooping sound. The symptoms may continue for three months or more.
About half of those infected in Stanislaus County have been children younger than 2 years old, said Trudi Prevette, supervising nurse for communicable diseases and immunizations. Infants may not have the typical symptoms but may have episodes in which the face turns red or purple.
Adults suffering from whooping cough may have a cough that persists for several weeks.
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Earlier this month, the state Department of Public Health said more than 1,700 cases had been reported in California from January through April. That was more than three times the caseload for the same four months in 2013.
Statewide, nine out of 10 cases were in children, and a third of those were teenagers in the 14-to-16 age group. Outbreaks of pertussis were reported at schools throughout the state.
Dr. Ron Chapman, the state’s top health officer, said outbreaks of whooping cough tend to peak every three or four years.
The last time the county saw a spike in whooping cough was 2010, when 153 people were sickened. Cases tapered off to 36 in 2011, followed by five cases in 2012 and two last year.
Health officials believe childhood pertussis vaccinations weaken with time, making older children and adults susceptible to the illness. “It’s not a vaccine that lasts a lifetime,” Prevette said.
California has adopted measures to prevent pertussis outbreaks, such as requiring a vaccine booster for seventh-grade students. The state health department also advises that:
• A pertussis vaccination is given to infants at 2 months, but it can be given as early as 6 weeks when outbreaks are occurring. Young children need additional doses by kindergarten.
• Adults receive a one-time booster shot. It’s especially recommended for adults who are in contact with infants. A booster is recommended for health workers who care for infants or pregnant women.
The California Department of Public Health has information about pertussis at www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/Pertussis.aspx.