In 2010, California experienced the largest outbreak of whooping cough in over 60 years. The illness soon spread to other states, including Minnesota and Indiana. Once again, ABC News is reporting that California is ground zero for this preventable disease, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s even worse this time. The state has reported nearly 10,000 cases so far this year.
Whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is caused by bacteria and considered a cyclical disease because cases peak every three to five years. It is especially dangerous for infants, who are also the most likely to catch it. Up to half of the infants who contract whooping cough require hospitalization, and according to the CDC it is fatal for 2 percent of them. The tragedy is that whooping cough is a vaccine-preventable disease.
Since children aren’t due for the whooping cough vaccine called TDaP until they are two months old, the CDC recommends that pregnant women get the vaccine so they can pass along the immunity to their unborn children. The original vaccine was developed in the 1940s and was very effective, but had uncomfortable side effects including high fever and swelling of the lymph nodes. This led scientists to develop a newer vaccine that was lumped in with the tetanus and diptheria vaccine and became known as TDaP. The new vaccine prevents whooping cough effectively, but eventually its effectiveness weakens over a five year period, so regular boosters are necessary.