San Mateo County fights whooping cough with vaccine

With the highest rates of whooping cough infections seen in half a century, health officials in San Mateo County are urging residents to get vaccinated.

By the end of August, the county had 61 confirmed cases of the disease, nearly seven times more than at the same time last year, officials said. Statewide, there have been 3,600 confirmed cases this year, including eight infant deaths, also a sevenfold increase over last year.

Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is potentially fatal in infants, so county officials are encouraging residents seven years or older — especially those in close contact with infants — to get vaccinated.

“We want to definitely try to get the word out because it can be serious,” said Health System spokeswoman Robyn Thaw.

Whooping cough typically starts with a runny nose and develops into explosive coughing that sometimes ends with a whooping sound.

School started for most districts within the past few weeks, and so far there has been no sign of an outbreak, said Peter Burchyns, special assistant to the county superintendent.

Infants who are too young to be vaccinated are particularly vulnerable — three-quarters of the 177 pertussis hospitalizations statewide this year have been infants younger than six months.

State health officials say the disease has reached epidemic levels, with the highest number of cases reported since 1958, when there were 3,837.

Most children get a pertussis vaccine before kindergarten but should get a booster shot around age 7.

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

 

Free vaccinations

With whooping cough cases on the rise, San Mateo County is offering shots to combat the disease.

What: Free whooping cough vaccination clinic

When: Sept. 18, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Health administration building, Room 100, 225 37th Ave., San Mateo

Who: Residents age 7 or older. No appointment or ID necessary.

 

Preventative steps

Wash your hands frequently.

Cover your mouth when you cough.

Stay home when sick.

Keep kids home from school when they’re sick.

For vaccination clinic locations and other information: www.smhealth.org/pertussis.

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