VISALIA – The number of pertussis (whooping cough) cases in Tulare County has already exceeded the number of cases that were reported for all of 2014. Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught strongly recommends vaccines to protect infants.

Pertussis is a contagious illness that is spread by coughing. It starts with a runny nose and progresses to a more significant cough with a whooping sound. Vomiting after coughing can also occur.

People with pertussis have coughing spells that can last for months. Although older children and adults may develop symptoms resembling a cold, infants can develop serious cases that make breathing difficult. Though immunized individuals may still sometimes get pertussis, vaccination is the best protection.

To protect infants from pertussis:

 all pregnant women should receive a whooping cough booster vaccine (Tdap) during the third trimester of every pregnancy, even if they got the vaccine before pregnancy. The protection that expectant moms receive from Tdap passes to their baby in the womb. This helps protect babies until they are old enough to get their first whooping cough vaccination at six to eight weeks of age. Ask your doctor for more information about how to obtain the vaccine.

 family members and caretakers of newborns and young infants should receive the Tdap vaccine.

 infants can start the childhood whooping cough vaccine series, DTaP, as early as six weeks of age. Even one dose of DTaP may offer some protection against fatal whooping cough disease in infants.

 avoid exposing newborns and infants to others who are ill.

To protect children and adults:

 young children need five doses of DTaP by kindergarten (ages four to six).

 students in seventh grade in California need to have had a Tdap booster.

 adults are also recommended to receive a Tdap booster, especially if they are in contact with infants or are health care workers.

If you think that you or your child may have pertussis, contact your medical provider or local clinic. Antibiotic treatment may decrease the severity of the illness and contagiousness. Family members of individuals with pertussis should take a round of preventative antibiotics.

If you have questions or concerns about pertussis, contact the Tulare County Communicable Disease Control Office at 685-5720. If you have questions regarding vaccination, contact your health-care provider or health clinic. You can also contact the Tulare County Immunization Office at 685-5725. The office is providing Tdap vaccines at no cost in limited amounts for a limited time for family members of infants.

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