I know, I am pathetic as my daily source of news is Yahoo, but for all you in CA....
After 910 cases of whooping cough that have left five babies dead, California has officially declared the outbreak an epidemic. If that isn’t bad enough, the case load is 400 percent higher this year than last, putting the state on track to break a 50-year record. With an additional 600 pertussis cases currently under investigation, officials believe things are about to get worse. Those most at risk? Unimmunized or incompletely immunized babies, whose lungs are still developing.
"Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot," California Department of Public Health director Dr. Mark Horton said Wednesday. A full regimen of pertussis vaccines includes shots at 15-18 months, along with a last round between 4-6 years. Additionally, health officials recommend additional booster shots at age 10 to 11.
According to Santa Clara Public Health Officer Marty Fenstersheib, the disease, which is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system, poses a significant risk to young children, whose parents mistake its symptoms for common colds. How do you know if your kid has whooping cough? First signs include runny nose, sneezing, mild coughing and low-grade fever, which evolve after 1-2 weeks into a dry irritating coughing spells. Spells sometimes, but not always, end with the distinctive “whooping” sound.
Of course, this recent outbreak calls into question whether parents who choose not to vaccinate children could be to blame. According to Kidshealth.org, the advent of the pertussis vaccine reduced the annual whooping-cough deaths in the U.S. from between 5,000 and 10,000 people to just 30 a year. Now, like the measles resurgence in 2008, which targeted children whose parents had refused to have their kids inoculated, whooping cough is back on the rise. Last year, the number of whooping cough cases spiked past 25,000, the highest level it's been since the 1950s.
The debate around vaccinations has been especially contentious in the U.S in the last few years, as parent groups have rallied around the belief that vaccines can be linked to numerous ailments, including autism (a belief based on a study which has since been entirely retracted by the medical journal which first published it). Despite any hard proof, these groups persist in choosing not to vaccinate their children, a process which, Dr. Paul Offit says poses its own dangers, as detailed in last October’s issue of WIRED.
“The choice not to get a vaccine is not a choice to take no risk,” he says. “It’s just a choice to take a different risk, and we need to be better about saying, ‘Here’s what that different risk looks like.’ Dying of Hib meningitis is a horrible, ugly way to die.”
In the meantime, what can parents do?
If you are worried that your kid might have whooping cough, see your pediatrician immediately.
While neither getting vaccinated nor surviving the illness provides lifetime immunity, kids from ages 11-18, whose immunity may have faded, can be given booster shots.
Because the disease is highly contagious (experts believe that 80 percent of non-immunized family members will develop whooping cough if they live in the same house as someone who has the infection) anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has pertussis should receive antibiotics to prevent spread of the disease.
In addition, young kids who were given an incomplete immunization might require a booster dose if exposed to an infected family member.