The number of pertussis cases reported in San Diego County since Jan. 1 has surpassed the total for all of last year, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Tuesday.

More than 100 cases of the illness also known as whooping cough have been confirmed recently, bringing this year’s count to 454, according to the HHSA. In all of 2013, 431 cases of the illness were reported.

The bacteria that causes whooping cough. Photo credit: Mayo Clinic/YouTube
The bacteria that causes whooping cough. Photo credit: Mayo Clinic/YouTube

The recent high for a full year was 1,179 cases in 2010.

“This year, a substantial increase in pertussis cases is being reported in San Diego County and throughout California,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Parents, guardians and teachers should be vigilant for symptoms of the disease.”

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

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 a 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.

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

–City News Service