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Auburn, Calif.- There are many more cases of whooping cough disease (also called pertussis) this year in both Placer County and California, according to Placer County Health and Human Services (HHS). Newborn infants are at the greatest risk for severe illness and death. Because of this, County health officials are recommending that everyone be up-to-date on their whooping cough vaccinations.

“Because infants usually contract the disease from contact with an infected adult or adolescent, it is especially important that parents assure that everyone who will be around their infant has been vaccinated against pertussis before having contact with their baby,” said Pat Orme, R.N., P.H.N., Assistant Director for Public Health. “Parents, older siblings, and grandparents are the most common source of infection for infants, and these family members and caretakers may not realize this since their symptoms can be mild.”

Whooping cough causes coughing fits that make it hard to breathe and spreads easily when someone with the disease coughs or sneezes. Early signs are like a common cold, such as runny nose, sneezing, low or no fever and mild cough. Symptoms can quickly worsen and can last for months. Coughing attacks may lead to vomiting, a red or blue face, a “whoop” sound, problems breathing, extreme tiredness, and sweating spells.

Symptoms in infants are different with infants younger than 6 months often not having a typical cough.  In the early stages, infants may gasp or gag, stop breathing for short periods, get very tired, and have seizures.  Symptoms can get worse very fast. 

Call your doctor if you or a family member have been around someone who has whooping cough or a bad cough, or if you have any symptoms of whooping cough. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to keep you from getting sicker, prevent you from spreading the disease to others, and prevent infants and others who have been exposed to the disease from getting sick.

So far this year in Placer County, there have been 19 probable or confirmed pertussis cases, compared to 6 in the same period last year. Pertussis is a cyclical disease that tends to peak every two to five years. The last time there was a spike in cases was 2005.

To be vaccinated, individuals should contact their regular health care provider.

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