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Third Whooping Cough Case in Two Weeks

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A 14-year-old student at Poway High School has whooping cough (pertussis), a highly contagious disease that causes severe coughing. The student had not been immunized against the disease, according to the County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA).

“It’s extremely important for parents to ensure that they and their children are protected against vaccine preventable diseases including whooping cough,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., County Public Health Officer.

“Whooping cough can lead to complications in infants. Teenagers and adults should have the Tdap booster, which can prevent whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus, as immunity to whooping cough can diminish over time.”

Poway High School is working closely with HHSA and has notified parents through letters and e-mails about the possibility of exposure to whooping cough.

Named for the "whoop" sound victims may make 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. Symptoms can last up to two weeks and may be followed by severe coughing fits and vomiting. Whooping cough can occur at any age, but infants and young children are at highest risk of life threatening complications, such as pneumonia, brain damage, and death. Individuals with symptoms of whooping cough should call their health care provider.

The incubation period is commonly 7–10 days, with a range of 4–21 days. 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 single dose of Tdap, given in place of a “tetanus booster” (Td).

In 2007, there were 50 cases of whooping cough reported in the county. There have been 29 cases of whooping cough in San Diego County to date this year, including this case.

Two previous cases of whooping cough were confirmed this month in children who had not been immunized against the disease, possibly exposing children and adults at two camps in San Diego County.

A child, 9 years of age, and a sibling, age 6, began antibiotic treatment for the disease on August 9.

The two children were out of school but attended some activities while contagious. Staff members from the two locations where the children spent a prolonged time are fully cooperating with HHSA staff to notify attendees of their potential exposure to pertussis. There is no current risk for pertussis exposure at these locations. The locations are:

August 4-8, 2008: The 9 year-old attended music and drama camp at Village Church in Rancho Santa Fe. There were more than 100 children and staff in attendance. The church has notified families and staff about the potential exposures and symptoms of whooping cough.

July 28-Aug. 1, 2008: Both children attended the KidsGames (outdoor activities) at the North Coast Calvary Chapel. The church sent out 30 notifications - to parents and staff - of the potential exposure.

“KidsGames is San Diego's Church Sport Camp with 11 sites throughout the county. As soon as we received word about the children with pertussis at one of the sites, we immediately notified all children that could have been in contact with the children that have pertussis,” said Debbie Walton, Director of KidsGames of North Coast Calvary Chapel. “We will continue to serve all of the children who are part of this great ministry in San Diego," she added.

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