Students Contract Whooping Cough

Two children at two different local schools were recently diagnosed with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, potentially exposing others to the highly contagious disease, County Health and Human Services Agency officials said today.

The two cases increase the region’s total to 384 to date for 2011. Last year, a record 1,144 cases were reported in San Diego County, including two infant deaths.

“Immunization is the best defense against whooping cough,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy County Public Health Officer. “It is very important to stay up to date with regular immunizations. Although there is a small chance a vaccinated child may still get pertussis, symptoms are likely to be milder compared to an unvaccinated child.”

A new state law requires 7th through 12th graders to show proof they have received the Tdap booster shot before they can attend classes. AB 354 was passed as a result of the 2010 statewide pertussis epidemic.

Parents can get the Tdap booster shot for their children through their primary care physician. Students who are not covered under a medical insurance plan can obtain the shot from a local retail pharmacy for a fee, or from a County Public Health center. 

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. The disease is treatable with antibiotics. For more information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics, call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit

New Cases

This week’s new pertussis cases where there has been a potential for public exposure are:

  • A 9-year-old who was up-to-date with immunizations and attends Hill Creek Elementary School in the Santee School District.
  • A 4-year-old who was up-to-date with immunizations and attends Christ the Cornerstone Academy in Mira Mesa.