Whooping Cough Takes Life of Tenth California Infant


Whooping cough (pertussis) has taken the life of a tenth California infant. According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), this infant like the other nine was under three months of age.

According to the CDPH, as of October 19, California had recorded more illnesses due to whooping cough (5,978) than in any year since 1955, when the disease caused 4,949 illnesses. In 1950, there were 6,613 cases reported.

More than half (57%) of the hospitalized cases of whooping cough involved infants less than than 3 months of age. Nearly three quarters (74%) of the hospitalized cases involved infants less than 6 months of age, and most of these were Hispanic (76%).

Of the ten infant deaths reported, 9 (90%) were Hispanic infants. Nine of the deaths were infants less than 2 months of age. None of them had received any doses of pertussis-containing vaccine. The other death involved an ex-28 week preemie that was 2
months of age who had received the first dose of DTaP only 15 days prior to disease onset (no time to develop immunity).


These ten infant deaths point out the importance of parents, family members and caregivers of infants getting a pertussis booster shot to provide a “cocoon of protection” around the newborns. The five-dose series of pertussis vaccinations typically starts at two months of age, but adequate protection doesn’t occur until the third dose at about six months of age.

Whooping cough, pertussis, is a very contagious respiratory illness caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. Pertussis is only found in humans and is spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others.

Symptoms of whooping cough usually develop within 7 – 10 days after being exposed, but sometimes not for as long as 6 weeks. The disease usually starts with cold-like symptoms and maybe a mild cough or fever. After 1 to 2 weeks, severe coughing can begin. Unlike the common cold, pertussis can become a series of coughing fits that continues for weeks.

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California Department of Public Health