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Whooping Cough Diagnosed in Two Students

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June 18, 2009

An 11-year-old student of Pepper Drive School in El Cajon and an 11-year-old student of Orange Glen Elementary School in Escondido have been diagnosed with pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. Both students have had 5 DTaP vaccinations.

“We remind parents that although no vaccine provides 100 percent protection against infections, being up to date with your child’s immunizations will usually mean more mild symptoms and a reduced risk of complications if they do become ill,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H, San Diego County Health Officer.

“About 15 percent of people who are fully vaccinated will still develop whooping cough after exposure to the illness.”

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is working with officials from both school districts. Notification letters have been sent to the parents of all students who may have interacted with the ill students.

Named for the "whoop" sound children and adults sometimes make when they try to breathe in during or after a severe coughing spell, whooping cough usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough.

These symptoms may be mild and brief, or last up to two weeks, but are often followed by severe coughing fits that may be associated with vomiting. Fever, if present, is usually mild. It is treatable with antibiotics.

Whooping cough can occur at any age, but infants and young children are at highest risk of life-threatening complications, the most common of which is pneumonia.

In adolescents and adults, rib fractures and difficulty sleeping may occur. Anyone who is not immunized is at a higher risk for severe whooping cough.

It is recommended that children get five doses of DTaP vaccine, one dose at 2 mo., 4 mo., 6 mo., 15-18 mo., and 4-6 years of age. It is also recommended that people 11- 64 years of age receive a one-time dose of Tdap, given in place of a “tetanus booster,” which is administered every 10 years.

In 2008, there were 51 cases of whooping cough reported in the county. There have been 36 cases to date this year, including this case.

For more information about whooping cough, please call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (619) 692-8661, or visit the web site at