Whooping cough up 4x from last year, infants at risk, County starts outreach campaign


Health Officials Launch Community Campaign to Protect County from
New Statewide Whooping Cough Epidemic

San Mateo County health officials have launched targeted outreach campaigns to protect infants who are too young to be immunized – the group that has been hardest hit by the statewide whooping cough epidemic – by targeting mothers and the people who care for them. The Health System is collaborating with hospitals, providers, schools and other organizations to protect the community from the statewide epidemic.

“There have been 35 pertussis cases reported this year, which is more than four times the number reported by this time last year,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, San Mateo County Health Officer. “Pertussis can be prevented by vaccination and by early detection and treatment. It is especially critical for parents of infants and young children to get vaccinated to protect their families because most babies with whooping cough get it from their parents.”

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, has claimed the lives of five infants statewide. During this same period of time, there have been no reported deaths from pertussis in the County. The Health System is working with labor and delivery hospitals throughout the County to ensure that “Tdap,” the vaccine that prevents whooping cough in adults, is offered to women postpartum. Health officials are also reaching out to new parents through mother’s groups, new parent classes, and the County’s birth certificate office to encourage parents to get their booster shot and be aware of pertussis symptoms.

The vaccine does not provide lifetime immunity. The County is collaborating with physicians to make sure adult patients are reminded to get booster shots every 10 years; and officials are encouraging day care centers to require childcare workers to be vaccinated since they are in close contact with infants and children who may not be protected.

The protection provided by a series of vaccines most children get before kindergarten wears off between the ages of 10 and 12, so the Health System is also working with schools to remind students to get a booster shot to remain protected.

Whooping cough does not always come with the characteristic cough, and it is often mistaken for the common cold or flu. Officials are working with physicians to recognize the early signs of pertussis and treat individuals before they pass it on. For more information about pertussis, and to find out where you can get vaccinated, visit www.smhealth.org/pertussis.

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