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Press Release

Contra Costa Health Officials Call for Vaccinations to Curtail Rise in Whooping Cough

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Public health officials in Contra Costa County are urging the public and healthcare providers to take precautions due to a rise in pertussis infection, a disease potentially dangerous to young children.

Pertussis, commonly called "whooping cough," is an upper-respiratory disease that typically causes violent coughing and difficulty breathing.

In recent months, Contra Costa County and other Bay Area counties have reported an increase in cases. So far this year, 38 cases of pertussis have been reported in Contra Costa County, eclipsing the 22 documented in all of 2012. There have been no reported deaths.

The disease is naturally cyclical, becoming more prevalent every two to five years, and 2013 could be a peak year. Several Bay Area counties have documented an increase in cases this year compared to 2012.

Anyone with contact with newborns and young children - particularly pregnant women, but also other family members and daycare providers - should receive the pertussis booster vaccine, Tdap, to help prevent illness and transmission of the disease.

"Infants are most vulnerable to severe pertussis disease, hospitalization, and death. To help protect newborns, it is now recommended that women receive a Tdap during each pregnancy," said Paul Leung, Immunization Coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services.

To help keep children healthy, doctors recommend a vaccine schedule for newborns and young children that includes the pertussis vaccine, and state public schools require 7th graders to receive a Tdap.

But many adults have not received the Tdap booster and are vulnerable to catching the disease, even if they received the recommended shots as young children.

Pertussis often goes undiagnosed in teens and adults because its symptoms can vary, and often resemble those of a cold. But sufferers can remain contagious for weeks unless treated with antibiotics, and can unknowingly pass the illness to more vulnerable members of the community.

The name "whooping cough" derives from a characteristic sound that young children with the disease sometimes make as they struggle to breathe. But parents or anyone else who suspects pertussis should not wait to hear the "whoop" to seek medical attention.

Health Services recommends that county residents contact their doctors if they have symptoms of pertussis or to determine whether they need a Tdap vaccination. For more information about the disease, or how to get vaccinated, visit or call the Immunization Program at 925-313-6767.

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Press Contact
  • Paul Leung, 925-313-6767