State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell urged parents to keep their children’s vaccinations up to date as an epidemic outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in California has reached its worst level in 50 years.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial illness spread by coughs and sneezes. People sick with pertussis have severe coughing attacks that can last for months. The infection gets its name from the sound of rapid coughing fits that sometimes ends with a whooping sound.
“The deaths of eight babies and the confirmed or suspected cases of 3,600 whooping cough bacterial infections in the state may have been prevented with childhood vaccinations against this and other diseases,” said O’Connell. “At the start of the new school year parents should make sure they and their kids are vaccinated to prevent the spread of infection.”
Even if a child or caregiver received a pertussis vaccine in the past, the immunity wears off with time leaving people susceptible to the infection. The California Department of Public Health advises infants, all other family members, caregivers, the elderly, and women who are pregnant to get vaccinated or get a booster vaccine.
California law requires children to be immunized. For information on immunization and health check-up requirements for children entering school, see the California Department of Education’s Fact Book at http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/pn/fb/documents/factbook2009.pdf, keyword “immunization.”
For information on pertussis, please visit the California Department of Public Health Web site at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/PH10-048.aspx.