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10th California infant dies of whooping cough [Updated]

October 20, 2010 |  8:04 am

A 6-week-old baby became the 10th child to die of whopping cough this year in California, which is experiencing a surge in cases.

San Diego health officials said the child, who was born prematurely, died last week.

"Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family of this child,'' Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's public health officer, said in a statement. "Infants are particularly susceptible to complications from pertussis because they are too young to get immunized.''

There have been 5,978 cases reported to California health officials so far this year, the most cases reported in California since 1950, when 6,613 cases were reported. The state now has reported 15.3 cases per 100,000 people, the worst incidence since 1959, when there was a pertussis rate of 16.1 cases per 100,000 people.

Put another way, it is the nastiest season since pertussis rates began a sharp decline, falling in the 1940s and 1950s after widespread inoculation efforts began.

Because immunity to the disease can begin to fade five years after illness or inoculation, officials urged people to make sure their and their children's pertussis vaccinations are up to date.

In July, California health officials expanded their recommendations for who should get a Tdap pertussis booster shot to include anyone 7 years old or older who is not fully immunized, the elderly, and especially pregnant women and anyone who has contact with them or with infants.

[Corrected at noon: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that California was in its worst year of whooping cough since 1958, with 3,600 cases reported so far this year, a sevenfold increase from the same period last year.]

-- Shelby Grad and Rong-Gong Lin II


Times' reporter Rong-Gong Lin II answers questions about whooping cough:

--Q&A: Whooping cough overview.

--Q&A: Protecting newborns.

--Q&A: Illegal immigrants & whooping cough