Health

Pertussis Cluster Reported at San Pasqual High School

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Six cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, have been confirmed at San Pasqual High School in the Escondido Union High School District, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

This is the first cluster of cases at a school in San Diego County during this academic year. None of the pertussis cases at the school were hospitalized and all were up-to-date on their immunizations.

To date in 2016, 340 pertussis cases have been reported in the county. This is less than half of the 876 cases reported at this point in 2015. Pertussis was epidemic in California in 2014 when there were 2,105 cases in the county.

“Although there have been fewer reports of pertussis this year compared to recent years, activity from this highly contagious disease tends to go in cycles and peaks every three to four years,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “That’s why it’s important for everyone to be up-to-date with their vaccinations, especially pregnant women.”

Pregnant women and people who come into close contact with young infants should be vaccinated, because newborns are especially susceptible to pertussis since they are too young to be fully vaccinated. A 5-week-old San Diego infant died from pertussis in July, the first death from the highly contagious disease in the county since 2010.

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, preferably earlier in the trimester, for 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 their children and themselves 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 www.sdiz.org.

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