Whooping cough cases soar in Marin and state
Marin County health officials say the number of whooping cough cases reported so far this year is already three times greater than the number of cases reported during all of 2009.
Dr. Anju Goel, Marin deputy public health officer, said 58 cases of whooping cough, a highly contagious respiratory tract infection also known as pertussis, were reported in Marin from Jan. 1 to May 17, compared with just 19 during 2009.
The higher Marin numbers reflect a statewide phenomenon. According to the California Department of Public Health, 346 pertussis cases were reported in California from Jan. 1 to April 30, up from 129 cases during the same period last year.
Statewide, four newborns have died from whooping cough – two in Los Angeles County and two in the Central Valley. State health officials say pertussis cases tend to be cyclical, with a rise in the number of cases every two to five years followed by a decline.
“The last big outbreak of pertussis cases was in 2005,” said Ken August, a state Department of Public Health spokesman. “So we’re concerned we could be in for another tough year.”
In 2005, pertussis killed eight California infants.
Infants, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of infants less than 1 year old who get the disease must be hospitalized. About one in 10 children with pertussis get pneumonia, and about one in 250 people who become infected develop a brain disorder called encephalopathy. The disease causes an estimated 10 to 20 deaths each year in the United States.
In Marin, the Ross Valley School District’s five campuses in San Anselmo and Fairfax are being hit the hardest.