Health officials are saying that more cases of pertussis were reported in L.A. County in October than during any month yet recorded, and are urging anyone not yet vaccinated to take time this weekend and get a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) shot.
The county received reports of 429 cases of pertussis (also known as whooping cough) during October, and 101 in the first week of November alone. “This is an epidemic that is reaching numbers we’ve never seen before in Los Angeles County,” Public Health Director Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., said in a press report today.
There were only 156 probable or confirmed cases of whooping cough during all of last year, and just 80 in 2008. Along with this year’s record number of cases, four babies in L.A. County have died of the disease.
Vaccination for adults is especially important because pertussis immunity from childhood vaccines wears off around age 12. And vaccinating adults helps protect babies under 6 months old, who are too young to be fully vaccinated and are considered most vulnerable to dying from whooping cough.
Because of the epidemic, the California Department of Public Health has expanded its vaccination recommendations. In addition to regular childhood vaccination against pertussis (three regular vaccinations plus two boosters by age 4-6 years), they suggest an adolescent-adult Tdap booster for:
• Anyone ages 7 to 9 who didn’t complete their childhood pertussis vaccination series.
• Anyone else age 11 and older, especially women who might become pregnant or who are new mothers.
• Seniors age 65 and older.
Anyone who lives with or cares for an infant should be sure their vaccinations are up-to-date, as babies are most-often infected by siblings (41%) and parents (55%). And if you’re in close contact with a baby and have an illness with a cough, seek medical attention right away.
If you don’t have insurance coverage for vaccines, call 2-1-1 or visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip for referrals to free and low-cost vaccinations.