Pertussis cases at San Diego County schools on rise; still short of epidemic year of 2010

HHSA: 334 whooping cough cases this year

SAN DIEGO - The number of pertussis cases reported in San Diego County this year has more than doubled last year's count, but remains well short of the epidemic year of 2010, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported.

A dozen new diagnoses of the disease commonly known as whooping cough were made over the past week, bringing the local total so far this year to 334, according to the HHSA.

That compares to 165 cases of pertussis last year. The record was 1,179 set three years ago, while 2011 brought 400 reported cases.

"Pediatricians and other providers in San Diego County are noting an increase in pertussis cases," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county's public health officer. "It's likely that activity levels will remain elevated in the region so it's important that everyone is up-to-date on the vaccine series and booster shot."

The cases over the past week involved children at R. Roger Rowe School in the Rancho Santa Fe School District; Cajon Park School in the Santee School District; Sycamore Canyon Elementary School in the Santee School District; Heritage Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District; Hillsdale Middle School in the Cajon Valley Union School District; and La Jolla Country Day School in La Jolla.

Also diagnosed with pertussis were individuals at Flying Hills Elementary School in the Cajon Valley Union School District, the San Onofre Child Development Center at Camp Pendleton, Monarch School in San Diego and the Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church Preschool.

All were up-to-date with their vaccines except for the ill person in Rancho Bernardo, according to the HHSA.

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 lessen the severity of symptoms and prevent the spread of disease to others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get vaccine doses 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. The ultimate goal is to prevent deaths that can result as a complication of pertussis. 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 physicians. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone who is not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a county public health center at no cost.

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