Whooping cough epidemic

California is experiencing it’s worst outbreak of whooping cough (pertussis) in 50 years. The nearly 1000 cases reported so far this year is more than 4 times as many as during the same period last year, and more than 600 additional kids have “possible cases” that are being investigated. Five infants have died of the disease in California this year already.

Pertussis is caused by a bacterial infection with a germ called Bordetella pertussis that can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. Failure to vaccinate kids is associated with a significantly higher risk for developing the infection, and for spreading the highly contagious germ to others. Communities where vaccination rates have fallen off are well known to suffer higher rates of pertussis cases.

I’ve written much in this GERMBlog, as well as in my book, Germ Proof Your Kids – the Complete Guide to Protecting (without Overprotecting) Your Family from Infections (ASM Press, Washington, D.C., 2008; www.germproofyourkids.com ) regarding the safety and importance of vaccines. In the book there’s lots of information about pertussis and the pertussis vaccine for those of you wanting to learn more (see Chapters 3 and 7). The side effects of pertussis vaccine are generally mild, and the current “acellular” pertussis vaccines have dramatically reduced the chances of all side effects.

Make sure your kids’ vaccines are up to date before they head back to school!