Whooping cough (pertussis) is a vaccine preventable disease that causes a severe and chronic cough.  It’s a nuisance for adults and adolescents, but it’s potentially lethal for infants.  California is having a serious outbreak right now with 4 times the normal number of cases this year.  Our numbers are up too, but nothing like in California.  So far this year, we’ve had 152 cases vs. 82 last year at this time, so while we’re up from last year, our epidemiologists haven’t called it an outbreak yet.

Infants should get their first pertussis shot at two months of age, but aren’t adequately protected until after their 3rd shot at 6 months old.  So it’s really important to make sure that the people around the infant aren’t sick with the whooping cough.  We had a pretty bad outbreak about 6 years ago and found that a lot of the infants were getting sick from parents, adolescent siblings and babysitters whose immunity had waned.  That’s why we added a pertussis booster shot for 6th – 8th graders.  California hasn’t added that requirement yet, so we’re better off than CA is in terms of that intervention.

We’re keeping a close eye on this (as are the counties)  and various counties are investigating additional public health interventions to slow the spread.  Most of the strategies are around the concept of “cocconing” which simply means doing things to make sure that everyone that takes care of infants gets a booster shot.