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 (1,182 Responses)
  1. RV Windows California

    Very nice article. I absolutely appreciate this site. Thanks!


    May 12, 2021 at 17:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Van Repair

    Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this post plus the rest of the site is very good.


    May 12, 2021 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Bedroom California


    May 12, 2021 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. bucket truck band

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article. Many thanks for providing this information.


    May 12, 2021 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Supplies California


    May 12, 2021 at 18:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. rv interior remodeling

    Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I've read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this blog.


    May 12, 2021 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. rv sales orange county ca


    May 12, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. good paint shops near me

    I needed to thank you for this great read!! I certainly enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you book-marked to look at new things you post…


    May 12, 2021 at 20:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sprinter Seat Fabric Repair

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Well written!


    May 12, 2021 at 21:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. orange county tire


    May 12, 2021 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. xnxx shop


    May 12, 2021 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. furniture repair stores near me


    May 12, 2021 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mercedes Benz Collision Repair Sprinter Van

    I'm more than happy to discover this website. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every bit of it and i also have you book-marked to look at new information in your web site.


    May 12, 2021 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rv ac repair near me

    Hi there! This blog post couldn’t be written much better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I most certainly will send this post to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a good read. Thank you for sharing!


    May 13, 2021 at 00:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. South Haven Michigan Mercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me


    May 13, 2021 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. rex trailers horse

    I really like looking through an article that can make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!


    May 13, 2021 at 02:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. rv collision repair near me


    May 13, 2021 at 02:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. rv repair shops near my location

    Next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not fail me just as much as this particular one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, but I really thought you would have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    May 13, 2021 at 06:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Tires Riverside


    May 13, 2021 at 07:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. fleet repair near me


    May 13, 2021 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Leak California

    Can I simply say what a relief to discover someone that actually knows what they're talking about on the net. You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people really need to read this and understand this side of your story. I can't believe you are not more popular since you surely possess the gift.


    May 13, 2021 at 08:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Dent Repair Near Me


    May 13, 2021 at 09:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. rex trailers horse


    May 13, 2021 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. fiberglass repair near me


    May 13, 2021 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rv refrigerator repair company


    May 13, 2021 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. rv services near me


    May 13, 2021 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV AC Los Angeles

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


    May 13, 2021 at 14:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Shades Riverside


    May 13, 2021 at 18:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. box truck repair parts

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest sites on the internet. I am going to recommend this website!


    May 13, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. rv tire repair near me

    This site truly has all of the information I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.


    May 13, 2021 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. rv repair orange county ca

    This is a topic that is near to my heart... Thank you! Exactly where are your contact details though?


    May 13, 2021 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. car paint shop orange county


    May 13, 2021 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. progressive photo inspection near me

    Good information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!


    May 13, 2021 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. upholstery orange county


    May 13, 2021 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. custom rv services

    Greetings, I do think your site may be having browser compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that, excellent website!


    May 13, 2021 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. vinyl wrap motorhome

    I really like reading an article that will make men and women think. Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    May 13, 2021 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. remodeled rvs interior


    May 14, 2021 at 00:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. RV Tires Riverside


    May 14, 2021 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Sprinter Rust Repair


    May 14, 2021 at 02:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. E 150 Van Power Window Repair


    May 14, 2021 at 03:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Van Auto Repair

    Everything is very open with a clear description of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your site is very useful. Thank you for sharing!


    May 14, 2021 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Mercedes Sprinter Van Repair Motorhome


    May 14, 2021 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. collision center of temecula temecula ca


    May 14, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. temecula tv repair

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the challenges. It was truly informative. Your website is useful. Thanks for sharing!


    May 14, 2021 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Mercedes Sprinter Cowel Panel Rust Repair

    Hi, I think your web site could be having internet browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, great blog!


    May 14, 2021 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. trailer service near me


    May 14, 2021 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. federatedfinancial.com

    Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, quite great article.


    May 14, 2021 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Dent Repair Riverside


    May 14, 2021 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. stornobrzinol

    Does your website have a contact page? I'm having problems locating it but, I'd like to shoot you an e-mail. I've got some creative ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it expand over time.


    May 14, 2021 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. horse trailer service near me

    I blog frequently and I truly appreciate your content. This great article has truly peaked my interest. I will take a note of your blog and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.


    May 14, 2021 at 15:36 | 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

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.