Whooping Cough Kills 5 in California - State Declares an Epidemic - NYTimes.com
SAN FRANCISCO — After the deaths of five infants, California health authorities declared an epidemic of whooping cough in the state on Wednesday, urging residents — particularly those of Latino background — to get vaccinated against the disease.
The announcement came after authorities noticed a sharp spike in reports of pertussis, the scientific name for whooping cough, which often is mistaken for a cold or the flu and is highly contagious. All told, 910 cases have been confirmed, with several hundred more under investigation. If the pace keeps up, the outbreak could be the largest in the state in 50 years, the California Department of Public Health reported.
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Dr. Chavez said that lack of information and inoculations in agricultural regions in the state’s Central Valley — home to many Latino farm workers — might be a culprit in the high incidence in that community. And indeed, Fresno County — in the heart of the valley — has the highest number of cases in the state, with 72 reported in May alone.
Periodic outbreaks of pertussis are not uncommon. The disease is endemic worldwide, and some 5,000 to 7,000 cases are reported in the United States in a normal year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epidemics occur every three to five years in the United States, with the most recent in 2005, when there were more than 25,000 reported cases nationwide, and nearly 3,200 in California, where 7 people died.