Whooping cough. Photo credit: Akron Childrens/YouTube
Whooping cough. Photo credit: Akron Childrens/YouTube

The number of whooping cough cases diagnosed in San Diego County so far this year is nearly double the total recorded in all of 2013, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Friday.

The county has logged 759 cases in the first half of 2014, compared to 431 in all of 2013. By this time last year, 97 pertussis cases had been diagnosed.

The recent record for pertussis cases in the county is 1,179, set in 2010.

“Parents should remain vigilant for signs of whooping cough to help prevent the spread of this disease,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer. “Everyone should be up-to-date on their vaccinations and booster shot. Even though the effectiveness of the vaccine lessens over time, it’s still the best defense against pertussis.”

Last week, the state of California declared a pertussis epidemic. Infants in Placer, Riverside and Sacramento counties have died of the disease.

Because most of the fatalities that result from the disease are in infants, health officials are urging pregnant women to make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations, so the unborn child will acquire some of the immunities.

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 sdiz.org.

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— City News Center