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California Whooping Cough Epidemic Hits Infants Hardest

Ted S. Warren / AP

Ted S. Warren / AP

California health experts say people around infants should be vaccinated to protect themselves and the little ones from whooping cough. Babies have been hard hit by the current epidemic.

The California Department of Public Health says two-thirds of hospitalizations from pertussis have been among infants less than four months old. Two infants have died.  

Dr. Dean Blumberg of the UC Davis Health System says there’s normally a surge in whooping cough cases every three to five years. But this year’s outbreak exceeds expectations.

“We are seeing increasing epidemics of whooping cough over the past several years, and part of that is that the vaccine is imperfect, and then part of that is our vaccination rate isn’t as high as we’d like it to be.”

The State reports there have already been more reported cases of whooping cough this year than were reported in all of 2013.

Click here to see an interactive graphic.

“One of the other problems with pertussis vaccines is that they just don’t work well immediately. So you can’t give them until kids are at least 6 weeks of age, and it takes at least two or three doses for children to get protection from pertussis. And so you really can’t get them protected until around 4-6 months of age,” Blumberg says. 

The highest rates of pertussis this year are in Northern California’s Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties, with high numbers in San Diego.

Click on this link to view a larger map

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