Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Whooping cough data from state show babies hardest hit, epidemic worst since 1955 [Updated]

State and county health officials want all residents -- not just those who live with or care for an infant -- to be vaccinated against pertussis, a.k.a. whooping cough.

Babies have been hardest hit by whooping cough in California, according to new statistics released by the state Department of Public Health.

All nine deaths so far this year have been among infants under 3 months old. Among patients who are critically ill with the disease, babies have also been disproportionately hospitalized.

According to the data released late Wednesday, of 196 patients known to have been hospitalized with whooping cough in California, 74% were infants under 6 months old and most -- 57% -- were under 3 months old.

Whooping cough is often spread to babies by parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents and other adults. Because infants do not begin vaccinations until they are 2 months old, health officials for months have been pleading for anyone who expects to be in contact with babies -- especially pregnant women -- to get vaccinated.

“There are a lot of people who aren’t fully immunized,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “People with respiratory conditions and cold-like conditions should not have contact with small infants.”


Whooping cough is spreading among adults too, but many of those cases aren’t reflected in the state’s numbers because the disease is often not diagnosed in adults.

Cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, continue to tick upward in California. State data as of Tuesday show that California has had the most cases of whooping cough since 1955, with 4,017 confirmed, probable and suspect cases reported so far this year.

The latest figure surpasses the number of cases reported in 1958 in California, when 3,837 people were sickened with the severe bacterial disease. This year marks the highest number of whooping cough cases in California since widespread vaccination efforts began in the 1940s and '50s.

[Updated 1:45 p.m.: State officials said the current rate of infection is 10.3 cases per 100,000 people, the highest incidence since 1962 when the state reported a rate of 10.9 cases per 100,000.]

Health officials also released demographic information showing that 77% of the hospitalized infants under 6 months old were Latino, as were eight of the nine fatalities.

Ken August, a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health, said health officials believe very young Latino infants are overrepresented in hospitalized cases because Latino babies “are more likely to live in larger households, per census data,” giving the infants more opportunities to be exposed to someone with whooping cough.

Infants under 6 months old are among the most susceptible to whooping cough because they are too young to have received the three inoculations needed to give them considerable protection from the disease. Vaccination guidelines call for shots at 2, 4 and 6 months.

August said the rates of immunization for Latino children are high and after 6 months of age hospitalization rates drop for Latinos. State data show that, overall, whites are the most likely group to be affected by whooping cough.

In addition to high rates of whooping cough in infants under 6 months old, state data also show high rates among children ages 7 to 9 and people ages 10 to 18 years.

Cases of whooping cough seemed to surge this summer, according to the state data, with more than 700 cases reported in May and close to 1,000 cases each in June and July.

The state numbers on pertussis cases ultimately may climb. Some diagnoses may come later, and confirmed cases are not always immediately relayed by counties to Sacramento.

A news conference to discuss the state's whooping cough epidemic, as well as the upcoming flu season, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday in Sacramento.

Fielding, the health officer in Los Angeles, said he didn’t know whether whopping cough cases had crested locally. He said he anticipated more diagnoses as children return to school this month and as doctors pay more attention to a disease some have erroneously believed was relegated to the history books.
-- Rong-Gong Lin II

Photo:  Carla Gottgens / Bloomberg. Patient being vaccinated against pertussis, a.k.a. whooping cough.

Comments () | Archives (37)

This is psychotic. To suggest that literally 3/4 of pertussis cases in Latinos are due to their being exposed to more adults living together in larger households is a smokescreen for the fact that Latinos are an underclass that is either afraid, or ignorant of getting vaccinated. When I speak to co-workers in the public school system, ostensibly "educated", who refuse to get vaccinated due to some vague X-Files terror of alien DNA in the mercury based death shots, one begins to understand such an improbable epidemic.

Political correctness has condemned these babies to death.

This article is misleading!

They say California has an epidemic of 4,017 cases this year and in 1958 there were only 3,837 cases. This is misleading because the population of California in 1958 was round 15 million and today’s is around 37 million.

So lets do the math.

In 1958 only 0.0256 % of population got whooping cough.
In 2010 only 0.0109 % of population got whooping cough.

So that's less than half (42.6%) of the number of cases if you base it on population.

I think that's pretty good! We are making progress.

No need to run out and get that $70 shot, besides who wants the possible side effects? And those shots are not guaranteed to work anyways.

What I would like to know is how many of those people who did get whooping cough were actually vaccinated.

Just my 2 cents.

Don't keep giving away your money just because someone scares you.

The sky is falling! Here buy this, and you'll be safe...


I have worked at both County Hospitals and in private practice pediatrics. I agree with Dodger Tony that it is often the "overeducated" who refuse vaccination (don't get me started on this topic). In general, however, the Latino population their kids' medical care including vaccines.

The problem is that kids get a pertussis booster at age 15 years, but adults don't get regular vaccines. Adult immunity to pertussis wanes, so there is a huge population at risk. All that needs to happen is for the adults to get a dTaP shot (with pertussis) instead of a tetanus shot. While pertussis can kill babies, it can also make adults miserable, and I have seen men break their ribs from coughing too hard.

hmmm, Dodger Tony, what part of this sentence from the article:

"...the rates of immunization for Latino children are high and after 6 months of age hospitalization rates drop for Latinos. State data show that, overall, whites are the most likely group to be affected by whooping cough." did you miss?

Latinos are NOT an underclass that is afraid to get vaccinated. It is the ostensibly educated WHITE parents who are refusing to get their children vaccinated.

"overall, whites are the most likely group to be affected by whooping cough."

Why? Because some parents like to believe in magical thinking rather than science. I know parents who think that vaccinations are dangerous, having totally lost perspective that it's the diseases that are dangerous. When I was a child in the 1950's, people died from polio, measles, diptheria, whooping cough, tetnus, etc. The ONLY reason the un-vaccinated have remained healthy is because most people are not so dumb as to refuse vaccinations and there is what's called "herd immunity". Meaning that most of the herd is vaccinated, so the chances of a disease spreading are reduced. Take away or compromise that herd immunity, and you'll see more outbreaks of potentially fatal illness.

Too many well-meaning, but scientifically ignorant parents are opting out of vaccinations, and it puts everyone else at risk. The law needs to be changed so that vaccinations are mandatory for school attendance, period.

There's a reason why Christian Science and other cults that don't believe in medicine aren't major religions - it's the Darwin effect.

This disease was in fact considered to have been relegated to the history books because most people were vaccinated. The influx of illegals who enter the country with no health checks whatsoever is bringing the diseases of their lands back into this country. Isn't this why most of those affected are Latinos and how many of those affected are here illegally.
This is another argument against illegal immigration and another consequence of allowing this to continue.
Wonder why this paper never refers to that?? Oh yes, political correctness!

Dodger is spot on. Adults should also know that the vaccination they got as a child has worn off. Because of that, the tetnus shot you're supposed to get every 10 years now includes diptheria and pertussis.

I know this because I had pertussis a couple of years ago. It is a horrible disease I wouldn't wish on anyone. It lasted four months and I lost consciousness at least twice due to restricted breathing. I am not latino nor do I live in a "larger" household.

And the anti-vaccinators have not only condemned the babies, they're putting all of society at risk because of their refusal to see the benefits of vaccination.

Illegal immigration is a multi-pronged and devastating dilemma in America...
but no more so than in California, where the nation's population of illegal aliens is the greatest. Shame on Washington DC. Shame on Sacramento. WE will retake our nation and restore standards that tax-paying Americans can actually be proud of again. It will take supreme effort and diligence, but we will prevail.
We have to...

Yet another consequence of importing millions from this third world culture of poverty. Now almost every day we have another story of a resurgent epidemic brought by massive, unchecked immigration into our country. Bedbugs? Tuberculosis? Whooping Cough? Leprosy? Americans didn't have these problems in past decades. Thank the professional politicians in Washington and Sacramento for leaving us at risk with our borders wide open.

Did you read the article, Dodger Tony?

"August said the rates of immunization for Latino children are high and after 6 months of age hospitalization rates drop for Latinos. State data show that, overall, whites are the most likely group to be affected by whooping cough."

Latino babies are getting immunized, that's not the problem. However, I bet the issue for whites is that parents believe the stories that vaccines cause autism and think that if everyone else gets immunized, their precious children will remain safe without needed to get the shots.

@DodgerTony - The article pointed out that after 6 months the number of Latino cases drops because the rate of immunization among Latino's is high. The California Department of Public Health provided the information. If you think they are being politically correct then rather than scientifically accurate then you should back your numbers up and present your case rather than taking anecdotal evidence from your work place.

All you parents who are afraid of vaccinations: There is NO PROOF OF ANY SORT that vaccinations cause autism. In fact it is just as likely that birth control pills cause autism as it is that vaccinations do. But there is definite proof that DPT shots innoculate children against all three diseases. So talk to your doctor and be sensible instead of superstitious.

When a former Playboy centerfold with only a year of nursing school under her belt comes out and states in her autobiography " Immunizations caused my son's autism "... Unfortunately her opinion is only a theory and I find that the people that follow celebrity opinion are just an added danger in regards to this story.

This epidemic is mainly due to so many people believing that they have allergy symptoms and not going to the doctor to get treated. Then, they take these symptoms home and infect others around them. When you have any symptoms of a runny or stuffed nose in conjunction with a cough or dry throat, go to the doctor. Don't try to convince yourself that it's just allergies. I had someone pass their cold to me and I was sick and on antibiotics for 7 days because they insisted they had allergies.

Again missing is data on how many of these babies are being exclusively nursed, vs. how many are supplemented or exclusively fed formula. Babies under six months not only are not fully vaccinated, but also are supposed to receive nothing by mouth except mother's milk. I'd be surprised to find that any significant number of the babies who have been hospitalized were exclusively nursed.

When I got my booster shot, the nurse (whose only job at that office is to give vaccinations) said that the booster for adults had been off the market for a number of years while it was reformulated. This epidemic is not in any way caused by conscious and considered declinations of vaccines... if vaccination plays a role, it's the lag time between when the old, higher-risk vaccine was taken off the market and when a new, safer version was rolled out for adults (there was no such lag for children's vaccinations).

Since 1998 Hispanic childen are 78% more likely to come down with whooping cough, just google California whooping cough and hispanic and you will see spanish web sites reporting this data. There is a culture here at play and they are researching it 7/23/10. Whethere it be ignorance or fear these kids are dying. Most Dr's take cash and office visit is usally $70 or less. So put away the cell phones and other luxury items and take your kid to the dr. When my son was born he was diagnosed with non threating condition but we wanted a second opinion and the suggested dr did not take HMO so we paid out of pocket to see the dr. When you have kids you taken on the responsibility to care for the child, and if can't you should not have put yourself in the position of having children.

typical scenario: a ph.d. in english suddenly thinks she's a public health expert. oh, right. she doesn't make that claim per se. she just thinks she knows better. that person's generally white and living on the westside (my stomping grounds), posing a risk to all! study after study refutes links between vaccines and autism. get it together. we've made progress stamping out deadly diseases thanks to routine vaccination. do we really want to regress to early twentieth century rates of infection? please.

once again, illegal immigration is the easy target. don't blame latinos. put on your thinking caps, people! immigration is more complex than you proclaim. you know it, i know it, and the captains of industry know it. don't pride yourself in your idiocy or ignorance. looks bad, very bad. looks racist.

"Health officials also released demographic information showing that 77% of the hospitalized infants under 6 months old were Latino, as were eight of the nine fatalities"

One only has to look elswhere in the article to see that if the statement of "State data show that, overall, whites are the most likely group to be affected by whooping cough", then would it not be 77% white and 8 of 9 fatalities white? These two statements seem to contradict each other.

"Health officials also released demographic information showing that 77% of the hospitalized infants under 6 months old were Latino, as were eight of the nine fatalities"

One only has to look elswhere in the article to see that if the statement of "State data show that, overall, whites are the most likely group to be affected by whooping cough", then would it not be 77% white and 8 of 9 fatalities white? These two statements seem to contradict each other.

Why is this happening now? A nurse friend of mine who worked for the county said that the illegal aliens are bringing it over from Mexico. Also, the reason we have TB on the rise again, after eradicating it in the US? It's from Mexico, through the illegals. In fact, it is a strain that is VERY hard to get rid of. These are deadly diseases that are killing US citizens. THIS is the reason immigrants were given physicals on Ellis Island and either sent back to where they came from, or put in a hospital on Ellis, until they recovered. But, this kept a lot of diseases out of the US. When are we going to get smart about this problem of illegal immigration?

Here is the long and short of it people.

Firstly, yes...the increase in these diseases long since thought eradicated in the U.S. are due to the influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal. I am 41 years old and can honestly say that this is the very FIRST time that I've ever seen a Whooping Cough commercial or heard about Bed Bugs except in child's tales of "don't let the bed bugs bite". (I live in California)

Also, it is not surprising that there is a drop in Latino's displaying the disease after a certain point. At least here in California, 99% of them are on some sort of FREE medical care. Yet another one of the many hall mark issues that are presented in the face of illegal immigrants costing taxpayers money. The majority of the other ethnic groups that are represented who display the diseases do not have health insurance nor do they have the incredibly educated support system in place, as do the latino's, on HOW to work the system to get FREE medical coverage.

It really is a shame that my sons are going to be a part of a generation(s) that are going to have to deal with a whole host of issues long thought terminated in the United States. What's next...do we see a resurgence of Polio?? How about the Black Plague...We've spent sooo much money on the protection of the uneducated illegal immigrants by providing many services that most average Americans can not afford in so much that...there will be a wipe out...there will be a wipe out of an educated era...a wipe out of a middle class that can neither afford many of the services these people are given freely nor do they qualify for the services. It's a crying shame.

To all those blaming illegal immigration for the uptick in whooping cough READ THE ARTICLE.

WHITES are the most like group to be affected by this illness...not immigrants! WHITE parents are the ones afraid of vaccinations, not Latinos!

Most articles, including this one, infer (by exclusion) that this is largely a disease concern for children only. If you are an adult, consider yourself at risk, unless you have had the booster that has been available since 2005.

I caught Pertussis (incubation period was the last two weeks of July), first sign of an insignificant cough was August 2. One week later, I was fighting for air.

The adult version of Pertussis, is equally insidious. If you get this, you will be digging yourself out of a financial deficit created by many weeks/possibly months of lost work, trips to the doctor, multiple x-rays that are "clear" (Pertussis does not show up on an X-ray, unless there is a secondary infection), etc. etc.

It is now September 16, and I am dealing with the side effects of the Cipro antibiotic. I have severe tendonitis from my lower back and down both legs. When I can walk, I walk like a penguin, in a great deal of pain. CDC recommends Z-pack, not Cipro.

I also have some sort of paralysis or injury to my vocal chords, that makes it impossible to speak for more than a few minutes, with only a raspy whisper.

I am not one to preach about vaccinations. But the T-Dap booster for adults, seems like a no-brainer, unless you have some underlying condition (ongoing chemo patient, etc.). Talk with a medical professional you trust.

I am a pacific islander married to a latina. My family and friends have had Tdap vaccinations even before my baby is born (now 7 weeks old). HaLF of my wife's immediate family had their vaccinations from my wife's urging and because I threatened to not let them come visit. However, her father, a sister, her aunts, uncles and cousins, all 'refuses' and thinks I am mean for threatening to not let them handle my baby, or even visit before our baby is 6 months old.

I am very concerned, but some of them insist in coming and visiting our baby. My wife is very conflicted and looks at me worriedly whenever someone from her side of the family calls and say they want to see the baby. These are aware of my threats.

In other words, in my household, it is true that the latinos are ignorant of this curent threat to our babies.

Whooping cough is not the only problem of not vacinating or following precription medicine instructions. Tuberculosis is also morphing into new strains because patients don't take a full cycle of medication because they are too lazy or "feel better". It too breeds in overpopulated homes. Third world country also comes to my mind.

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: