The rate of pertussis infections in San Diego County is running far ahead of last year’s pace, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported Thursday.

The 10 new cases logged last week brings to 154 the number of patients diagnosed with the disease, generally known as whooping cough, so far this year, compared to 33 at this time last year, according to the HHSA.

“We’re seeing a very high level of pertussis activity throughout San Diego County,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Parents, caregivers and educators should be on the lookout for symptoms so those with pertussis get treatment so they don’t infect others. It’s also important that everyone obtain the recommended vaccines.”

A total of 430 cases of pertussis were reported in 2013, 165 in 2012 and a recent high of 1,179 cases in 2010, according to HHSA.

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

Antibiotics can lessen the severity of symptoms and prevent the spread of disease to others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get doses of the vaccine at the following 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 1 year old are especially vulnerable because they do not have the full five-dose series of pertussis vaccinations.

Parents can obtain the vaccine series and the booster shot for themselves and their children through their primary care physician. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a County Public Health Center at minimal or no cost.

More information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics is available at the HHSA Immunization Branch by calling (866) 358-2966, or going online to

 – City News Service