Long Beach health officials have reported a dramatic increase in whooping cough cases this year. The number of individuals diagnosed with pertussis, commonly referred to as whooping cough, has had an almost nine-fold increase this year.
In 2013, there were five cases of pertussis diagnosed from January 1 to May 1. The total number of cases last year, 15. The total number of cases so far this year? 43.
Health officials are urging individuals to make sure their, and their children’s, vaccinations are up to date. So far, none of these cases have been fatal. The majority of the individuals who have contracted this disease have been school-age children. While health officials acknowledge the importance of vaccines, they are also pointing out other possible causes for the rapid spread of this illness.
Long Beach Health Officer, Dr. Michael Kushner, mentioned that children may be sent to school with whooping cough if parents think it is just a cold or bad cough. Another factor in this growing problem is that children may be sent to school too soon after receiving treatment, while they are still contagious. Whooping cough can be treated with antibiotics, but individuals need to stay at home while they are taking medication. Individuals being treated for pertussis are advised to stay out of the public for roughly five days. Returning to school too soon can spread the contagious illness. Currently, the Long Beach Unified School District is working with health care officials in order to spread the word of the increase of cases of whooping cough.
Whooping cough begins with what may seem to be a typical cold, a cough and a runny nose. This persists for about two weeks. After these initial two weeks, the condition typically worsens, and the individual may suffer from severe coughing fits lasting weeks to months. Infants who contract whooping cough may have coughing fits that include the “whooping” sound that gives pertussis its other name, whooping cough. The infant may have such severe coughing fits that they might be followed by vomiting.
Whooping cough can bring complications with it. Some of the complications of whooping cough include seizures, pneumonia, and in rare cases, even death.
Kushner advised that the, “persistent cough this year needs to be checked out and diagnosed.” He added that individuals with a persistent cough should be seen by their health care providers to make sure they receive a diagnosis. It is important that individuals do not just assume they have a bad cough, and continue with their normal routines. Doing so can contribute to the growing number of pertussis diagnosis’.
Long Beach certainly is not the only location seeing an increase in the number of whooping cough cases. Contra Costa County in California has also seen an increase in the last year and a half. Paul Leung, M.P.H., is the immunization coordinator for Contra Costa Public Health. Leung said, “It is a miserable disease.” He also spoke of uncontrolled coughing fits. Leung also noted that little babies, “may not have a lot of coughing. They can just have episodes where they stop breathing and turn blue or purple. That’s why we’re so concerned.”
Officials in Long Beach, and Contra Costa, are encouraging those who have not been vaccinated, or those who need a booster shot, to do so because of the increase in whooping cough cases. Individuals typically get roughly five doses of a vaccine, DTaP, before kindergarten in order to help prevent infection of different diseases, including pertussis. DTaP boosters are recommended to vaccinated adults every 10 years.
By Ashley Campbell