Breaking down whooping cough
October 21st, 2010
10:40 AM ET

Breaking down whooping cough

Pertussis, or whooping cough, which has claimed its 10th death in California, is caused by bacteria that can lead to severe upper respiratory infections.  Here's what you need to know.

What are the signs?

Whooping cough's symptoms are hard to distinguish from the common cold - runny nose, congestion, sneezing, red, watery eyes, a mild fever and coughing.  The coughs may have a high-pitched "whoop" sound when the sick person is trying to draw in the next breath of air.

But whooping cough might be a misleading name because many people — particularly infants (who have been mainly affected by this outbreak) — don't develop the characteristic whoop.

The cough can last for weeks and children can cough so hard and rapidly that blood vessels can burst and they have difficulty eating, drinking and breathing.

Listen to what whooping cough sounds like

Who's at risk?

Nine of the 10 deaths occurred in babies younger than 8 weeks old, which means they were too young to be vaccinated for this highly contagious bacterial disease, according to the California Department of Public Health. Infants are not supposed to receive the pertussis vaccine until they're at least 2 months old.

10 infants dead in California whooping cough outbreak

What is herd immunity?

A segment of the population (too young, allergic or sensitive to vaccines) have to rely on other people who have been immunized to protect them from spreading the infection.

"We need herd immunity and need the vaccination rates up at a certain level," said Dr. Jason Glanz, a senior scientist and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente's Institute for Health Research. "It's generally understood if 90 percent is vaccinated, the vulnerable are protected. The children too young to be immunized are particularly vulnerable."

However, some parents are choosing to not vaccinate their children. In other cases, previously vaccinated children and adults may have lost their immunity because the vaccine has worn off.

Who isn't getting vaccinated?

That brings up two different issues. Those who make a conscious decision not to get the vaccinations for whatever reasons are unimmunized. Then there are people who are under-immunized, who tend to be in the lower socio-economic group and have received some vaccines.  They typically want health care but may not have access.

"The more people that are unimmunized, you break down your herd immunity and you're more likely to have outbreaks," said Dr. Robert Frenck, professor of pediatrics in the infectious diseases division at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. "The people who are choosing to be unimmunized are getting the benefits of the people who are taking the risks of being vaccinated."

Do children in the U.S. have to get more shots?

What are other factors for the outbreak?

Peaks in whooping cough cases cycle every two to five years. California saw its last peak in 2005, with 3,182 cases, according to state health officials.  That number has nearly doubled this year - California has 5,978 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of the disease.

What should I do?

Get vaccinated if you haven't.Make sure your children are immunized.

Since the whooping cough vaccine does not protect you for life, booster shots are needed. They're recommended for kids around age 11, and for adults around every 10 years.

California epidemiologists estimate 50 percent of the children who have gotten sick were infected by their parents or caregivers.

Anyone coming into contact with newborns need to be vaccinated, to create a "cocooning strategy" where the newborns are protected because the older people around them have been vaccinated and therefore won't pass it on to little babies.

soundoff (1,375 Responses)
  1. aldi near me

    Hi there! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for your great information you have got here on this post. I will be coming back to your web site for more soon.


    June 12, 2021 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. dry cleaners near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I really think this web site needs a great deal more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read through more, thanks for the information!


    June 12, 2021 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. estate sales near me


    June 12, 2021 at 16:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. plumbing supply near me

    This is the right website for anybody who wishes to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I personally would want toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject which has been discussed for years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!


    June 12, 2021 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. butcher shop near me


    June 12, 2021 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. pnc near me


    June 12, 2021 at 19:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. garage sales near me

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Kudos!


    June 12, 2021 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rapid covid testing near me

    This is the perfect blog for anybody who wants to find out about this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a topic which has been written about for many years. Excellent stuff, just wonderful!


    June 12, 2021 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. restaurants near me open now

    I couldnít resist commenting. Perfectly written!


    June 12, 2021 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. music store near me


    June 12, 2021 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. dinner near me


    June 12, 2021 at 21:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. jobs near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It is the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 12, 2021 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. 15 minute covid test near me

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 12, 2021 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. butcher near me


    June 12, 2021 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. petco near me

    Hi! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after looking at some of the posts I realized itís new to me. Anyhow, Iím definitely happy I came across it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!


    June 12, 2021 at 23:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. fish market near me


    June 13, 2021 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. circle k near me

    You have made some really good points there. I checked on the net for more info about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    June 13, 2021 at 01:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. flea markets near me

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little homework on this. And he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this issue here on your site.


    June 13, 2021 at 01:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. credit union near me


    June 13, 2021 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. toyota dealership near me

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who was conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this matter here on your site.


    June 13, 2021 at 03:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. keybank near me


    June 13, 2021 at 04:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. barber shops near me

    Greetings! Very useful advice within this article! It's the little changes that produce the most important changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 13, 2021 at 05:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. thrift stores near me

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me just as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I truly thought you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you can fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    June 13, 2021 at 07:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. cabin rentals near me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this article plus the rest of the website is also very good.


    June 13, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. discount tires near me


    June 13, 2021 at 08:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. drugstore near me


    June 13, 2021 at 10:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. fedex drop box near me


    June 13, 2021 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. movies near me

    Hello there! This post couldnít be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept preaching about this. I'll forward this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!


    June 13, 2021 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. italian restaurant near me


    June 13, 2021 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. hand sanitizer near me

    Your style is really unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this site.


    June 13, 2021 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. fast food near me


    June 13, 2021 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. popeyes chicken near me

    Good day! I could have sworn Iíve visited this web site before but after looking at a few of the posts I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím certainly happy I stumbled upon it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back often!


    June 13, 2021 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. giant near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I honestly believe that this web site needs much more attention. Iíll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the advice!


    June 13, 2021 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. flea market near me


    June 14, 2021 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. trails near me

    Good information. Lucky me I came across your website by chance (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!


    June 14, 2021 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. chinese restaurant near me

    Very good write-up. I definitely appreciate this website. Thanks!


    June 14, 2021 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. winery near me


    June 14, 2021 at 03:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. breakfast restaurants near me


    June 14, 2021 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. weather near me


    June 14, 2021 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. electrician near me


    June 14, 2021 at 05:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. coffee shops near me

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It's always exciting to read through articles from other authors and use a little something from other sites.


    June 14, 2021 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. guitar center near me


    June 14, 2021 at 06:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. movie theater near me


    June 14, 2021 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. plumber near me

    Hello there! I just wish to offer you a huge thumbs up for your great info you have got right here on this post. I'll be returning to your blog for more soon.


    June 14, 2021 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. massage places near me


    June 14, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. bank of america near me


    June 14, 2021 at 11:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. fish market near me


    June 14, 2021 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. printing near me


    June 14, 2021 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. home depot near me

    That is a good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very precise infoÖ Thank you for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 14, 2021 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. businesses near me

    I used to be able to find good information from your blog posts.


    June 14, 2021 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.