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Whooping Cough

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San Bernardino County Health Officer Maxwell Ohikhuare, MD is suggesting that parents seek whooping cough vaccinations for infants younger than six months.

In a news release Friday, Ohikhuare said there has been a statewide increase in illnesses due to pertussis, including a threemonth- old in San Bernardino County that died recently.

Whooping cough — or pertussis — is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis (or B. pertussis). It's characterized by severe coughing spells that end in a "whooping" sound when the person breathes in. Before a vaccine was available, pertussis killed 5,000 to 10,000 people in the United States each year. Now, the pertussis vaccine has reduced the annual number of deaths to less than 30.

But in recent years, the number of cases has started to rise. By 2004, the number of whooping cough cases spiked past 25,000, the highest level it's been since the 1950s. It's mainly affected infants younger than 6 months old before they're adequately protected by immunizations, and kids 11 to 18 years old whose immunity has faded.

The first symptoms of whooping cough are similar to those of a common cold: runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and low-grade fever.

After about 1 to 2 weeks, the dry, irritating cough evolves into coughing spells. During a coughing spell, which can last for more than a minute, the child may turn red or purple. At the end of a spell, the child may make a characteristic whooping sound when breathing in or may vomit.

Between spells, the child usually feels well.

Although it's likely that infants and younger children who become infected with B. pertussis will develop the characteristic coughing episodes with their accompanying whoop, not everyone will.

However, sometimes infants don't cough or whoop as older kids do.

They may look as if they're gasping for air with a reddened face and may actually stop breathing for a few seconds during particularly bad spells.

Adults and adolescents with whooping cough may have milder or atypical symptoms, such as a prolonged cough without the coughing spells or the whoop.

Pertussis vaccine is available through your health care provider, or at Public Health clinics Countywide. For more information about clinic locations and times, call 1-800-782-4264. For more information about pertussis, visit the California Department of Public Health website at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthIn fo/discond/Pages/Pertussis.aspx

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