Pertussis cases in San Diego County have decreased nearly 90 percent since the 2010 epidemic and roughly 25 percent since last year, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Service Agency.
The county has seen only 130 cases of whooping cough so far this year – whereas 2010 had nearly 1,180 reported patients and 400 people were diagnosed in 2011.
Since then, statewide efforts for immunization have required middle and high school students to get whooping cough booster shots, known as TDAP, before going to school. Individual counties throughout California have also publicized any reported cases of pertussis to keep residents mindful of disease hotspots.
California saw 7,800 confirmed cases and the deaths of 10 infants because of pertussis in 2010, according to the California Department of Public Health. Whooping cough is highly contagious and inflicts a deep, harsh cough in patients.
“When you’re dealing with any kind of infectious disease that can cause epidemics there’s a history of waxing and waning,” said Deputy Public Health Officer Eric McDonald. “Sometimes the cases will be higher or lower.”
But McDonald credits the significant drop this year to the immunization push, legislation and awareness.
“We’re done a lot of things in California to improve the immunity status of the community,” McDonald said. “In the past, a lot of adults didn’t realize that they should be boostered.”
Doctors have also become more attuned to the signs of whooping cough thanks and treat this more aggressively, said McDonald.
Those most susceptible to the disease have also been targeted for vaccinations, including pregnant women and infants. Preventative treatment has also been used – meaning those in close contact with diagnosed individuals can take antibiotics to fight off the disease.
Students in grades 7-12 are required by state law to receive the TDAP vaccinations, even though it has been considered controversial by many parents, who worried it makes children susceptible to diabetes or autism.
But the Institute of Medicine found there is no link between inoculation and those particular conditions last year. Another study discovered that the vaccine fades in about three years, adding support to school rules requiring kids to get the vaccination periodically.
Though the end of the year is still about a month away, McDonald said he hopes that the reported cases return to a baseline. And with any luck, this year may have the fewest cases since 2008.