California is having an epidemic of whooping cough.  I just got a memo from Sequoia Hospital, which followed my memo from Stanford.  This is real.

The number of cases is at the highest level since 1958.

Why do we care?

  • Case rates are highest in infants
  • Adolescent and teens follow close behind
  • 12% of cases required hospitalization
  • 8 deaths have been reported, all in babies less than 2 months of age, and none had been vaccinated yet.

 

Whooping cough is spread by inhaling respiratory droplets (ie it gets into the air you are breathing) and is highly contagious.  On average they think most patients infect 12 other people!  Whooping cough in adults does not have the severe whooping cough characteristic of infants and young children, therefore it frequently goes undiagnosed.

Infants are very vulnerable.

Infants are protected for the first few months of life from maternal antibodies during gestation.  Unless recently immunized though, most pregnant women have little immunity to pertussis, so they are not giving sufficient protective antibodies to their fetus.  As a result, the California Department of Public Health is recommending

  • all women of childbearing years be vaccinated with Tdap. (Tetanus, Diptheria, Acellular Pertussis) Pregnancy is not a contraindication to vaccination, though usually women are vaccinated in the 2nd /3rd trimester or postpartum. 
  • Anyone in close contact with infants– family members, caregivers, and health workers– should be vaccinated at least 2 weeks before contact.

 

Provide a cocoon of safety for your infant and your family. The first dose of DTaP is given at 2 months of age, but may be given as early as 6 weeks to provide protection earlier in life.