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San Diego County baby dies of whooping cough

July 29, 2010 |  2:42 pm

A San Diego County baby has died of whooping cough, marking the seventh death statewide in an epidemic on track to be the worst in 50 years, authorities said Thursday.

The 4-week-old baby died at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego on Tuesday, said Ben Metcalf, a hospital spokesman.

Metcalf said the baby’s relatives did not consent to releasing any other identifying information. It was the first whooping cough death in the county since 2001, Metcalf said.

So far this year, 266 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, have been reported in San Diego County, he said. All the state’s whooping cough fatalities this year have been infants, including three in Los Angeles County.

Last year, three infants died of the highly contagious upper-respiratory infection, one each in Los Angeles, Kern and San Bernardino counties.

As of July 16, the most recent information available, nearly 1,500 cases of whooping cough had been reported statewide, according to the state Department of Public Health. At the same time last year, only 304 cases had been reported.

Earlier this month, California public health officials expanded recommendations for vaccination against pertussis to include children age 7 and older; adults 64 and older; women before, during and immediately after pregnancy; and anyone who may have contact with pregnant women or infants.

They stressed that the vaccine, which is made from dead pertussis bacteria, is safe for pregnant women.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske