Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


San Diego County On Pace Toward Worst Year For 'Whooping Cough' Cases Since 2010

Ten people who were up to date on their vaccinations came down with pertussis recently and health officials said Thursday that San Diego County was on pace toward having its worst year for "whooping cough'' cases since 2010.

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.

The recent outbreaks pushed this year's tally to 266, compared with just 51 cases reported by this date one year ago and 430 cases reported in all of 2013, according to the county Health and Human Services Agency. In 2010, 1,179 cases were reported.

"We are seeing a level of pertussis activity that should cause concern for parents and caregivers,'' county public health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten said. "We want everyone to receive the recommended vaccines so that they are protecting themselves as well as everyone around them.''


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.

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

Antibiotics can prevent spreading the disease to others and can lessen the severity of symptoms, according to health officials.

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.