San Diego

County Urges Pregnant Women to Get Whooping Cough Vaccine Amid Potential Epidemic

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency is urging pregnant women to get immunized against whooping cough amid a possible epidemic.

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is expected to reach epidemic levels based on the San Diego County’s historical records, the county's communications department said. The potentially deadly disease mostly affects infants. 

Dr. Mark H. Sawyer, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from at Rady Children’s Hospital, said it is possible to prevent a newborn from getting the disease before they are even born.

"These hospitalizations can be prevented if pregnant women make sure they are immunized during pregnancy to protect their infants beginning on their first day of life."

The county recommends a Tdap booster for pregnant women during their third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they got a booster before becoming pregnant.

Whooping cough tends to peak every three to five years with the last epidemic in 2014. San Diego County reported the highest number of cases in California in 2017 with just over 1,000 confirmed cases.

As for 2018, 56 cases have already been reported. This is up from the same time last year.

"We see many young infants hospitalized every year at Rady Children’s so the increased number of cases this year is a concern," Sawyer said. 

The increase may be due to "the excellent detection and reporting" by San Diego pediatricians and family physicians, according to county Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H.

Early symptoms of whooping cough include a runny nose or a mild cough for one to two weeks, according to the county.

Immunizations are offered at community clinics, retail pharmacies, or by calling 2-1-1 for nearby facilities. Visit the HHSA Immunization Branch website for more information.

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