The number of cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is on the rise in San Diego, California. Since the beginning of the year, 298 cases have been reported, which is up by 600 percent from last year’s 53 cases that had been reported by the same time.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that affects the respiratory system. The disease most often affects infants and young children, who are typically infected by parents, caregivers, or older siblings who are not even aware that they have the disease. Whooping cough can be deadly especially in children under the age of one.
When someone is suffering from whooping cough, he or she will experience difficulty breathing due to violent coughing episodes. Other symptoms include a runny nose, fatigue, and vomiting. Recovery is a slow process as the effects of whooping cough can last for 10 weeks or longer. The disease is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. When an infected person coughs or sneezes in close proximity of another person, there is a risk that they will then breathe in the pertussis bacteria and become infected as well. Symptoms typically develop seven to 10 days after exposure; however, they may not appear for up to six weeks. Once infected, whooping cough is treated with antibiotics and early treatment is extremely important both to lessen symptoms and to prevent spreading the disease.
The CDC recommends that children be vaccinated against the pertussis bacteria at two months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and again at 4 to 6 years of age. San Diego county public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten encourages parents to ensure their children receive the whooping cough vaccination on schedule during those recommended ages. She said the current whooping cough outbreak “has shown no signs of slowing down and this high level of activity should be a concern for parents and caregivers.” She went on to explain that the vaccine loses effectiveness over time and therefore, it is important for adults to receive a booster shot to safeguard against infection as the number of whooping cough cases continues to rise.
Currently, San Diego is not the only U.S. city dealing with whooping cough. Kennebunk, Maine is also seeing cases of the deadly disease. While there have been only six cases of pertussis reported to date, school superintendent Andrew Dollof is sounding the alarm and encourages parents to get their children and themselves vaccinated as soon as possible. “We do not want to create hysteria,” Dollof said, but rather make people aware of the dangers of such a contagious disease.
School officials are not only warning parents about the dangers of whooping cough, they are also providing them with necessary information that will help prevent further cases of infection. Should a student be diagnosed with whooping cough, it is mandatory that they not return to school for at least five days, which the school hopes will help prevent further spread of the disease.
While cases of whooping cough are on the rise, receiving the proper vaccination will help safeguard against infection. For those who are already infected, the CDC encourages regular hand washing and covering of the mouth when coughing to prevent further spread of the disease.
By Donna W. Martin