Cases of whooping cough are up the past two months in Marin County, especially among kids, and the County’s Public Health Officer wants to make sure parents are on alert.
During April and May, 36 pertussis (whooping cough) cases were reported to the Marin County Department of Public Health, up from five cases in 2012. All known Marin cases are recovering or have recovered, and no hospitalizations or deaths have been reported.
Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health Officer, said vaccinated and unvaccinated people can get whooping cough during an outbreak. However, he said unvaccinated children are at least eight times more likely than fully vaccinated children to get the disease and then spread it. Most of the recent pertussis cases have occurred in school-aged children, but infants are at the greatest risk for severe complications. In 2010, 10 infants in California died from pertussis. Most babies who become ill with pertussis are infected by a household contact, often a sibling attending school.
“That’s one reason why we want to stress the importance of making sure our school children are up to date with their vaccines,” Willis said.
Children are considered fully vaccinated if they receive the recommended five vaccine doses before age 6, and a booster vaccine between ages 10-12.
What’s happening now in Marin:
• County health officials are working with local healthcare providers and schools to identify additional cases and limit disease spread.
• Affected schools sent letters requiring children with possible pertussis symptoms to remain out of school until medically evaluated.
• Health care providers have been notified to be on the alert for pertussis and offered guidance for testing, treatment and reporting.
Pertussis outbreaks occur every three to five years. The last large outbreak was in 2010, when more than 9,000 cases were reported state-wide and about 350 in Marin.
“Other Bay Area counties are also seeing more pertussis this spring,” Willis said. “Only time will tell if we’re heading for another outbreak of the magnitude of 2010.”
Pertussis, a bacterial infection that spreads through coughing or sneezing, usually begins with common-cold symptoms before characteristic whoop or coughing fits appear. They can last for weeks if untreated.
Visit www.marincounty.org/hhs for more information.