A second baby has died of pertussis – or whooping cough – in California.
The Placer County baby was less than six months old, county Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Oldham said in a press release Monday.
“It is a terrible tragedy for both the family and our community when a baby dies,” Oldham said. “Sadly, most of the deaths from pertussis are children less than six months old.”
Another baby, who was less than six months old, died in Riverside County in January. It was the first confirmed whooping cough death since the state faced an epidemic in 2010.
Why six months matters
Babies can get their first dose of the pertussis vaccine at two months, but they’re not fully protected until six months.
That can become a problem if the people around them are not vaccinated against whooping cough. Unlike other vaccine-preventable diseases, the pertussis vaccine does not promise lifelong immunity, nor does getting pertussis ensure that you won’t contract it, according to CDPH.
Because of that, health officials recommend pregnant women receive a pertussis vaccine booster during the third trimester of each pregnancy, even if they’ve received it before. They also recommend “cocooning” a newborn, meaning that everyone who comes in close contact with the child should be up-to-date with the vaccine.
Is this going to be a bad year for whooping cough?
The state health department reported 495 cases of whooping cough as of March 2014. In Southern California, the city of Long Beach and the counties of Orange, Riverside and Ventura are all experiencing a spike in cases of pertussis so far this year, we reported last week.
Pertussis peaks every three to five years, and California’s last major outbreak was in 2010. When we spoke with a state official last week, he said it was too early to determine if this will be a bad year for the disease.
"It is concerning that we’re seeing higher levels of disease than we saw a year or so ago, but it’s always challenging to predict what will happen with infectious diseases," said Dr. James Watt, chief of the division of communicable disease control at the Department of Public Health.