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Five children who were up to date on their vaccinations have come down with pertussis recently in San Diego County and county health officials are worried that the ailment, commonly known as whooping cough, will spread.

The total number of confirmed cases so far this year in San Diego County was 139, more than 100 cases higher than the number of pertussis cases at this date a year ago, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency.

Those sickened include an infant at the Naval Air Station North Island Child Development Center; an infant at Olivenhain Country Preschool in Encinitas; a 15-year-old student at Steele Canyon High School in Spring Valley; and 15-year-old students at James Madison and University City high schools, both in San Diego.

All were up-to-date for their age on immunizations, according to the county.

“Pertussis continues to infect infants and children throughout San Diego County and it is important that they, as well as their caretakers and household contacts, obtain the recommended vaccines,” county Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said.

A typical case of the illness starts with a cough and runny nose for a week or two, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild.

Antibiotics can prevent spreading the disease to others and can lessen the severity of symptoms, according to county health officials.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get doses of the vaccine at the ages 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15- to-18 months, and 4-to-6 years.

Health officials also recommend that preteens and adults get a booster.

Infants younger than 12 months old are especially vulnerable because they do not have the full five-dose series of pertussis vaccinations.

The agency said parents can obtain the vaccine series and the booster shot for themselves and their children through their primary care physicians, or for a fee at a retail pharmacy. Anyone who is not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a County Public Health Center at little or no cost.

Information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics can be obtained by calling the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or online at

– City News Service