Diagnosis slow in 8 California whooping cough deaths

An analysis of eight California whooping cough deaths shows doctors were slow to diagnose pertussis in the infants despite several visits to clinics and hospitals.

California Department of Health immunization official Dr. John Talarico recently wrote in a letter to state health care providers that the infants were treated only for nasal congestion or mild upper respiratory infection.

He says it was too late to intervene and prevent death by the time whooping cough was diagnosed.

Health officials are now urging physicians to suspect the bacterial disease in any infant under 6 months of age who is having trouble breathing. Doctors have been told to treat them for pertussis during the current whooping cough epidemic.

California is in its worst year of whooping cough since 1958 with 3,600 cases reported so far this year.

Information from: Los Angeles Times

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.