Infant Dies Of Whooping Cough, First In California In Years

July 18, 2018 - 2:54 pm

SAN BERNADINO COUNTY (KCBS Radio) - State health officials are urging pregnant women to get vaccinated for pertussis, better known as whooping cough, after an infant died from the disease in July.

Officials say this infant was from San Bernadino County but did not provide more details. It's the first time an infant has died from the disease in California since 2016. 

Dr. Karen Smith, Director of the California Department of Public Health says the latest death is especially tragic because the disease is preventable.

California Communicable Disease Control Chief Dr. James Watt says 50 to 200 infants in the state are hospitalized every year, "Those hospitalizations can be quite severe with infants in the hospital for many weeks".

Dr. Watt says that can be avoided if pregnant women get vaccinated in the third trimester of each pregnancy, "To make sure they have enough antibodies to pass them along to their baby before birth. That's when you really maximize that transfer of antibodies, that transfer of protection over to the unborn baby". That maternal vaccination helps protect infants until they are old enough to get an immunization of their own, as early as 6 weeks old.

Children are required to get 5 doses before they start kindergarten and then one booster shot in 7th grade. Dr. Watt says it is important to be vigilant and follow through on all immunizations because, "that protection doesn't last very long and that's why pertussis continues to circulate. Sometimes I think there's a tendency to feel that 'oh well we've taken care of that'. But it's really important for people to know that with pertussis, that's a disease that's actually always out there".