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Health Dept. urges whooping-cough vaccinations

November 16, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
We know whooping-cough cases have reached epidemic proportions throughout the state. Southern California is getting hit particularly hard.Los Angeles County health officials say more cases have been reported in October than any other month so far.

So far, all the whooping coughs deaths have been in infants. Babies are too young to get the pertussis vaccine and so health officials are asking everyone else to get one so everyone can be protected. But few adults Eyewitness News talked to knew they needed a booster shot.

Either people didn't know they needed a booster or they had fears about the Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertussis) shot, which contains the pertussis vaccine.

"My view is that it's really important, particularly if you're going to be around a very young child, to have that immunization, regardless of age," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Fielding says lack of awareness and misinformation is helping to fuel the largest pertussis outbreak L.A. County has ever seen. Ten infants have died and more than 1,600 cases were reported in the month of October alone.

"We are way above where we had expected to be," said Fielding. "We're above any year that we've seen before, so this epidemic continues unabated."

Studies show 41 percent of infants infected with pertussis contracted the disease from a sibling; 38 percent contracted it from their mother; and 17 percent from their father. That's why Fielding says every child who hasn't completed their vaccination schedule needs to do so, and every one over the age of 11 needs to get a booster.

"There's this notion of 'cocooning.' Anybody that's going to be around this very, very young child should make sure that they have had their Tdap booster, which includes pertussis," said Fielding.

It's unknown how long this epidemic will last, so Fielding says the best way to save lives is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

"There are peaks usually every three to five years, but we've never seen a peak like this, and that's why if everybody gets their Tdap, however long it was going to be, however serious it was going to be, it will be much less," said Fielding.

The infection rate continues to climb. In the first week of November alone, health officials say more than a hundred cases have been reported.

Fielding says the best place to get a shot is at your doctor's office, or you can call 211 to get a list of clinics providing the shots.


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