Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

San Diego Whooping Cough Cases Outpacing 2013 Numbers

The rate of pertussis cases in San Diego County continues to run far ahead of 2013, with 10 new diagnoses reported last week, the county Health and Human Services Agency announced Wednesday.

Nearly 200 cases of the disease that's also known as whooping cough have been logged so far this year — nearly halfway to the total for all of 2013, which was 430, according to the HHSA. By this time last year, 39 cases had been reported.

Two years after a KPBS/inewsource investigation posed serious questions about how well the whooping cough vaccine works, new research confirms the vaccine is failing at a higher rate than expected.

"A greater number of children are getting sick with pertussis this year," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer. "Parents or guardians should make sure their children have received all the recommended doses of the pertussis vaccine."

She said it is also important that parents and other caregivers recognize symptoms immediately so that those sick with pertussis can get immediate treatment, and not spread the illness.

A typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild.

Antibiotics can lessen the severity of symptoms and prevent the spread of disease to others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get doses of the vaccine at the following ages: 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 15 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years. Health officials also recommend that preteens and adults get a booster.


Infants younger than 1 year old are especially vulnerable because they do not have the full five-dose series of pertussis vaccinations.

Parents can obtain the vaccine series and the booster shot for themselves and their children through their primary care physician. Local retail pharmacies offer vaccinations for a fee, and anyone not covered by a medical insurance plan can get the shot from a County Public Health Center at minimal or no cost.

More information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics is available at the HHSA Immunization Branch by calling (866) 358-2966, or going online to