Infant death sparks vaccine reminder

In light of the pertussis death of a San Bernardino County-born infant, Kern County Public Health Department officials are emphasizing the importance of vaccines.

According to officials, this is the first confirmed death since 2016 caused in California by pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

“We are, of course, saddened to hear about the pertussis death,” said Michelle Corson, public relations officer for KCPHD.

“Our messaging would remain as it always is — really encouraging women to get vaccinated. It’s just so important that pregnant women get vaccinated during their third trimester, and it’s important for each of us to be up to date on our whooping cough vaccines — especially if we are going to be around those with lowered immune systems.”

Young infants, the most vulnerable to the disease, can be protected by antibodies transferred by their mothers — who ideally should receive the vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks of gestation. Public health officers said whooping cough outbreaks typically occur every three to five years. The last serious epidemic was in 2014, when 11,000 cases were reported.

To prevent the spread of whooping cough, the California Department of Public Health additionally recommends:

• Vaccinating infants as soon as possible (recommended age two months)

• Making sure young children receive all five recommended doses of DTaP by kindergarten

• Making sure all students entering seventh grade receive vaccine

• Ensuring that all adults who may have contact with infants and pregnant women have their vaccines up to date

Symptoms of whooping cough vary according to age. For children, a typical case starts with a cough and runny nose for a week or two. If the cough worsens, it may result in more rapid spells that end with the “whooping” sound. In some cases, an infant’s face may turn red or purple during coughing spells.

Story First Published: 2018-07-27