Friday, November 12, 2010

Reports of pertussis cases in LA County at an all-time high


For Immediate Release:
November 12, 2010

Number of Reported Pertussis Cases Highest Ever for LA County
Epidemic continues; residents urged to get vaccinated

LOS ANGELES - More pertussis cases were reported in October than any
other month so far, the Department of Public Health announced today,
renewing the call for residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
More than a quarter of the total number of reports of pertussis cases in
LA County this year occurred within the last month.

"We have received 101 pertussis reports for the first week of
November alone (1st-5th), and 429 reports for the month of October. This
is an epidemic that is reaching numbers we've never seen before in Los
Angeles County," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of
Public Health and Health Officer. "This disease can be prevented with
a vaccine and I urge everyone who is eligible to take advantage of this
protection for themselves and their loved ones. If you have not already
done so, make it a priority this weekend to get vaccinated."

To date, more than 1,600 cases of whooping cough have been reported
this year. Of those, only 480 have been classified as 'probable' or
'confirmed' so far - many turn out to be false reports or actually
occurred outside of LA County or simply cannot be verified. But these
numbers are still significantly higher when compared to previous years.
During the entirety of 2009, there were 156 probable or confirmed cases
of pertussis countywide, and only 80 cases in 2008. Of particular
concern is that pertussis has claimed four lives in LA County this year,
all of them infants. In a normal year, it is responsible for one or no

"The best protection against pertussis is vaccination," said Dr.
Fielding. "Whooping cough is a disease that is especially dangerous
for infants under six months of age, who are not old enough to have
received the number of vaccine doses needed to be fully protected. Now
is an especially important time to get vaccinated. Vaccinations do not
give you instant immunity, and take time to develop full protection. By
taking action now, you can ensure that you are protected for the holiday

Those who do not have a regular healthcare provider or insurance
coverage for vaccines may dial 2-1-1 or visit for referrals to providers and
community sites offering immunizations free or at a reduced-charge. Make
sure that you call ahead to the clinic to ensure that it has the vaccine
available and find out if you qualify for a free or reduced-charge
vaccination. Eligibility, based on age and other factors, may vary. Some
major chain pharmacies are also offering Tdap vaccine for a fee. Contact
your local pharmacy for more information and to ask about availability.

The California Department of Public Health recently expanded its
vaccination recommendations amid rising numbers of pertussis cases
throughout the state. In addition to the usual series of childhood
pertussis vaccinations, the California Department of Public Health now
recommends an adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) for:
● anyone 7 through 9 years of age who did not complete the
pertussis vaccination series at an earlier age;
● all others 11 years of age and older, especially women of
childbearing age before, during or immediately after pregnancy and
seniors 65 years of age and older.

"Infants are most likely to be infected by parents, grandparents,
older siblings, day care workers, and other caregivers who have whooping
cough but often don't know that this disease is the reason for their
symptoms," said Dr. Fielding. "People suffering from a cough illness
who have contact with infants should seek medical care immediately.
Anyone who lives with or has frequent contact with an infant should
ensure that their vaccinations are up-to-date."

According to one recent study, when the source of the infant's
infection could be identified, 41 percent of infants infected with
pertussis contracted the disease from a sibling, 38 percent from their
mother, and 17 percent from their father. As such, anyone who has
frequent contact with an infant is urged to make sure that their
vaccinations are up-to-date. In addition, anyone with a cough-illness of
any kind should avoid contact with infants.

Pertussis is spread by the coughing of an infected individual. Typical
symptoms in young children include intense coughing accompanied by a
whooping sound, and post-cough vomiting. However, some infants infected
with pertussis may not show typical symptoms, but can still suffer
life-threatening complications, which can include pneumonia and
seizures. Among older children and adults, the primary symptom may be a
cough that often lasts for several weeks or longer. If you suspect that
you or a loved one may have pertussis, contact your doctor right away.

Children should receive three primary vaccinations containing the
pertussis vaccine and two boosters by age four to six, followed by a
Tdap booster (which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)
during their preteen years. Any teen or adult who has not received a
Tdap booster yet should do so, particularly if they are in contact with
an infant. Los Angeles County residents are encouraged to contact their
regular healthcare provider to arrange for recommended vaccinations.

Everyone should also practice standard hygiene habits in order to help
prevent the spread of any illness. These healthy habits include washing
your hands often with soap and water, staying home from work or school
when sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and covering
coughs and sneezes appropriately with a tissue.

For more information on preventing the spread of whooping cough or
other illnesses, visit the Public Health website at

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and
improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles
County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and
services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control,
and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000
employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more
about Public Health and the work we do, please visit, visit our YouTube channel at, or follow us on Twitter:

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