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Whooping cough fears as kids start school

August 30, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
With kids heading back to school parents and pediatricians are bracing themselves for an onslaught of illnesses. This year doctors warn we're seeing an alarming amount of whooping cough.California health officials report at least 3,000 whooping cough or pertussis cases this year.

"As of the middle of this month in August we are up seven fold as of this time last year," said Dr. Jill Hoffman from Children's Hospital L.A.

And so far the disease has killed eight infants. Babies are too young to get the vaccine, so Dr. Hoffman says that's why people over the age of 9 need the adolescent-adult vaccine.

"It contains a slightly different formulation," said Dr. Hoffman. "It has been proven to be very safe and effective. It is used in Canada in children over the age of 4."

Another disease you can catch year after year is the flu. This year's vaccine contains three different strains including the H1N1.

It's a lot of shots. And many parents are deciding not to get them done. The main concern: fears over an autism childhood vaccine link. But Dr. Hoffman says the latest evidence should reassure patients.

"It's not really controversial to those who have read the documents and understand the science," said Dr. Hoffman. "There is no link between autism and any vaccine that is currently being offered."

Besides vaccinations, another way to avoid spreading germs is of course handwashing. But infectious disease experts say there is a proper way to do it.

First you have to have the right temperature.

"Hot water is always better than cold water," said Dr. Hoffman.

And you have to wash for 30 seconds. But you don't need to waste water.

"I don't think you need to leave the water running. You have to get your hands wet and agitate on all surfaces," said Dr. Hoffman. "You want to get in between your fingers and the backside of your hands. I don't think those are areas that kids wash very well."

One way to get young kids to wash for 30 seconds is to teach them to sing the ABC's or Yankee Doodle.


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