It is being called an epidemic: Cases of pertussis, better known as whooping cough, are spiking across California, nearly triple the average. With the school year starting, the spike has Bay Area health officials urging parents to act.
With three deaths already this year in the state – and the numbers soaring in Santa Clara County – officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated. San Jose mom Gayle Barry has heard about the number of cases surging, right as school is set to begin. "It's a very scary thing,” Barry said. “Anytime I send my kids to school, they always come home with notices of things they've been exposed to that I have no control over." That is why Barry says she has vaccinated her three little girls.
The numbers of pertussis cases are staggering: California has seen nearly 7,000 cases of the cough this year. Compare that to just more than 2,500 in 2013. In Santa Clara County, the numbers are more than double what they saw last year, with nearly 350 cases so far. "The pertussis, or whooping cough, cycles every few years, so we expect an increase every few years of pertussis,” said Dr. George Han, Santa Clara County's deputy health officer. “That is why they are calling it epidemic."
Dr. Han said the last time the numbers were this high was 2010, and while it’s not clear why cases spike in certain years, it’s important to take notice. "It's a very serious disease, especially in infants 1 year of age,” Dr. Han said. “They're typically the ones that get hospitalized.”
With school about to start, Dr. Han is urging everyone to make sure children are vaccinated. But Barry says, despite the vaccinations being mandatory, she knows not everyone does. "I have a lot friends that choose not to vaccinate, and I have family that choose not to vaccinate, and I'm completely opposed to that,” Barry said. “I think it's important to vaccinate."
Dr. Han said, while it is incredibly important to get vaccinated, like the flu vaccine, it does not always prevent individuals from getting the virus. However, it’s still the best chance to staying healthy.