APTOS – Local cases of whooping cough, which can be life threatening for infants, have doubled since October from 29…
APTOS – Local cases of whooping cough, which can be life threatening for infants, have doubled since October from 29 to 66, prompting an alert from Santa Cruz County health officials seeking to prevent the highly contagious disease from spreading.  Most cases of pertussis, as it is known medically, have been associated with schools, according to the county’s Public Health Division staff.
Dr. Arnold Leff, the county health officer, identified the affected schools as Aptos Junior High, Aptos High School, the New School, an alternative campus in Watsonville for high school students, Orchard School, a private school in Aptos for childcare through sixth grade, and Monarch School, a small public alternative school in Santa Cruz for kindergarten through fifth grade.
“Pertussis is usually not very serious in teenagers,” he said. “But in infants it can be deadly.”
Three California Infants who contracted whooping cough in 201
4 died. The state experienced a pertussis epidemic that year, more than 11,000 cases, according to the California Department of Public Health, with this being the highest number of cases in more than 60 years.
Treatment involves five days of antibiotics. Leff said this is important to prevent complications such as pneumonia, a lung infection that if untreated can be deadly.
These infected remain contagious for three weeks without antibiotics, Leff said, and health officials advise keeping children home from school until they have finished their antibiotics.
Thus, an outbreak that a school could affect attendance, which could affect state funding for the school, which is based on average daily attendance.
Leff recommends parents who observe symptoms such as cough without a fever , gasping or vomiting, talking to their pediatrician about antibiotics. He advises an urgent care visit as preferable to the hospital emergency room.
For those not coughing, he advises immunization.
Whooping cough almost disappeared after a vaccine was developed in 1948 to inoculate against diphtheria, tetanus and whole cell pertussis – called Dtap.
In 1997, a new version containing antigen instead of whole cells came out.
A booster version called Tdap for kids age 11 and older provides protection that is short-lived, according to a 2016 Kaiser Permanent Study in Northern California of 1,200 vaccinated adolescents from 2006 to 2015. The study covered the time when whopping cough epidemics broke out in 2010 and 2014.
“Routine immunization with Tdap did not prevent pertussis outbreaks among this highly vaccinated population , “The study concluded, adding that the vaccine provided” moderate protection against pertussis during the first year after vaccination, and then protection wanes “to less than 9 percent after four years.
The authors of the study, Kaiser researchers Joan Bartlett and Bruce Fireman and physicians Nicola Klein and Roger Baxter, concluded, “The results in this study raise serious questions regarding the benefits of routine ely administering a single dose of Tdap to every adolescent aged 11 or 12 years. Because Tdap provides reasonable short-term protection against pertussis, Tdap may more effectively contain pertussis if it is administered to adolescents in anticipation of a local pertussis outbreak rather than on a routine basis. “
Kaiser purchased the vaccine for the study from GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur, who provided research support to Baxter, who died in 2016, and Klein, according to the study, published in the journal Pediatrics in March 2016.
If Leff sees it, having some protection is better than not having any protection.
If you have symptoms: Consider visiting the doctor when the cough becomes more severe.
If you know you were exposed: See your doctor.
How to prevent: Vaccination typically offers good protection for the first few years, but then protection decreases. A booster vaccine can boost protection. Wash hands with soap and water for 15-20 seconds; cough and sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand, and teach children to do the same. Stay home from work or school to prevent others getting sick.
Information: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/. For public health questions, call the Santa Cruz County Health Services Communicable Disease Unit at 831-454-4114.