The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said that cases of pertussis, or whooping cough in the state are on the rise; in fact, compared to 2013, the number of cases are triple this year.

CDPH has received reports of 1,711 cases of pertussis occurring from January through April 2014. Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer said, “Pertussis peaks in incidence every 3-5 years. The last peak in California was in 2010, and now we are concerned that the recent increase in reported cases suggests that another cyclical peak is beginning.”


Infants too young to be fully immunized remain most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. Most of the 77 hospitalized cases to date in 2014 have been in children three months of age or younger. This year’s two pertussis deaths, the first reported in California since 2010, occurred in infants. To prevent severe pertussis in infants, CDPH recommends that pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, and that infants be vaccinated as soon as possible.

More than 90 percent of this year’s reported pertussis cases have been in children younger than 18 years of age, including 32 percent who were 14 through 16 years of age. Outbreaks of pertussis in elementary, middle, and high schools have been reported throughout the state.

It’s important that both children and adults are up-to-date on their immunizations. Booster shots for pertussis are critical because, unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, neither the pertussis disease nor vaccine confers lifelong immunity.

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. This vaccine-preventable disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route. Visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

Pertussis goes through a series of stages in the infected person; initially a irritating cough followed by repeated, violent coughing. The disease gets its nickname by coughing without inhaling air giving the characteristic high-pitched whoop. Certain populations may not have the typical whoop like infants and adults.

It is highly communicable, especially in very early stages and the beginning of coughing episodes, for approximately the first 2 weeks. Then the communicability gradually decreases and at 3 weeks it is negligible, though the cough my last for months.

Those that are not immunized are susceptible to this disease. Young infants and school aged children (who are frequently the source of infection for younger siblings) are at greatest risk.

To prevent pertussis, CDPH recommends that pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they’ve received it before, infants be vaccinated against pertussis as soon as possible. The first dose is recommended at two months of age but can be given as early as 6 weeks of age during pertussis outbreaks. Children need five doses of pertussis vaccine by kindergarten (ages 4-6),  California 7th grade students receive the pertussis vaccine booster as required by state law and adults receive a one-time pertussis vaccine booster, especially if they are in contact with infants or if they are health care workers who may have contact with infants or pregnant women.