Eight children have died in California from pertussis or Whooping Cough as it is more commonly known, in a letter to the state's health care providers, the California Department of Public Health is pointing the finger at the state's physicians and pediatricians for not catching the disease in time to make a correct diagnosis. On Tuesday, a health department official said this is the worst year for pertussis since 1958.
The letter written on August 19, 2010, by the department's chief of communicable diseases Dr. John Talarico, says physicians should act quickly when diagnosing the disease.
"A common theme among the infant deaths is that pertussis was not typically diagnosed until after multiple visits to outpatient clinics, emergency departments, or other health care facilities," Talarico wrote. "In several cases, the infant’s symptoms at the time of examination were not highly suggestive of pertussis and the infants were treated only for nasal congestion or mild upper respiratory infection. By the time these infants developed severe respiratory distress, it was usually too late for any intervention to prevent their tragic deaths."
One of the deaths, included a one-month-old toddler who died at San Diego's Rady's Children's Hospital in July, according to the hospital's spokesperson Ben Metcalf. He said this was the first pertussis related death in San Diego County since 2001.
The number of pertussis cases in San Diego County has climbed to 468 in 2010, up from 371 cases in 2005, according Jose Alvarez from San Diego County's Department of Health and Human Services. The number of pertussis related deaths in 2009 was 143.
The highest number of the cases by race/ethnicity have been white children, but most but looking at the number of cases by age group suggests Latino infants may have the highest rates, according to California's Department of Public Health.
In order to reach the Hispanic community, the County is holding free clinics every weekend through September at six Northgate Markets on Sundays from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Alvarez said.
The vaccine is also available from any of the County's Public Health Centers or your personal physician or pediatrician.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get one dose of DtaP vaccine at the following ages: 2 months; 4 months; 6 months; 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years.
The CDC also recommends that children receive a booster shot of Tdap vaccine at 10-11 yrs.
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends an adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine (Tdap) for everyone 10 years or older who has not yet received it, especially women of childbearing age, before, during, or immediately after pregnancy; and other people, including household contacts, caregivers, and health care workers, who have contact with pregnant women or infants.
Children 7-9 years of age who did not receive all of their routine childhood shots are also recommended by the health department to receive a Tdap booster dose.