2014 Has Highest Number of Pertussis Cases on Record

The number of pertussis cases confirmed in San Diego County has hit 1,183 to date in 2014, surpassing the previous record high of 1,179 cases in 2010, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

The increase in the highly contagious respiratory disease, also known as whooping cough, is being seen throughout California, but has hit San Diego County especially hard. California has reported 6,930 cases through August 4. The number of cases in San Diego County is slightly more than double the state rate per 100,000 people.

“Pertussis activity tends to go in cycles and peaks every 3-4 years,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We are working with local health care professionals and educators to stress the need for everyone to be up-to-date with their vaccinations and for pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“Although most schools were closed for summer break, clusters of cases continued in middle and high school settings in year-round schools, in summer camps, and day programs throughout the county.”

Wooten said it’s especially critical for pregnant women and people who come into close contact with young infants to get vaccinated, because newborns are especially susceptible to whooping cough because they are too young to be fully vaccinated. It is vital for pregnant women to be vaccinated in the third trimester to give protection to their unborn infants.

So far there have been no pertussis deaths reported in San Diego County, but there have been three infant deaths in California in 2014.

Eight percent of the San Diego County cases this year have been under one year of age and 47 percent have been between the ages of 13 and 18. Overall, the median age of cases is 13 years old with the youngest case being one month old and the oldest 96 years old.

Nineteen local cases have required hospitalization and 12 of those cases (63 percent) were babies less than 1 year old.

At this same point last year, there were only 142 reported cases and a total of 431 for all of 2013.

A typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild. Antibiotics can lessen the severity of symptoms and prevent the spread of disease to others.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following vaccination schedule:

· Young children need five doses of DTaP by kindergarten: at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years.

· All students entering 7th grade need proof of a whooping cough booster immunization (Tdap).

· A Tdap booster is recommended for pregnant women during their third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they got a booster before becoming pregnant.

· One dose of Tdap is recommended for adults 19 years of age and older who did not get Tdap as an adolescent.

Parents can obtain the DTaP vaccine series and the Tdap booster shot for themselves and their children through their primary care physicians. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone who is not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a County Public Health Center at minimal or no cost.

For more information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics, call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit

There were also three new cases of pertussis confirmed last week in which the public may have been exposed. The new cases reported at the following locations were up-to-date for their age on immunizations:

· A 9-year-old at Chula Vista Hills Elementary School in the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

· A 10-year-old at Monterey Ridge Elementary School in the Poway Unified School District.

· A 16-year-old at Chula Vista High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact