California health official: Whooping cough cases are declining

Vials of the whooping cough vaccine.
Vials of the whooping cough vaccine.
Getty Images/Justin Sullivan/Staff

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California's whooping cough epidemic may have peaked, but a state health official still urges people to remain vigilant against the contagious respiratory disease.

"We are pleased that case numbers are declining," state epidemiologist Gil Chavez says in a statement to KPCC. "This was expected, as this is the typical cyclical pattern for pertussis."

The number of new cases peaked in mid-June, when the California Department of Public Health reported 1,100 cases in a two-week period. The state health department is reporting about 300 new cases of whooping cough in the two-week period ending September 15.

The state has recorded 8,278 cases of the disease during this year’s epidemic. The majority of cases have occurred those under age 18.

The state health department has vaccination history for 84 percent of pediatric cases; of those, ten percent were never vaccinated against whooping cough.

Infants too young to be vaccinated continue to be at highest risk for the disease. Babies younger than four months old represent almost two-thirds of those hospitalized with the illness.

Health officials say pregnant women can provide protection to their newborns by getting the vaccine during their third trimester of pregnancy.

The state has vaccination history for less than half of the mothers whose babies younger than four months old have acquired whooping cough. Of those, 82 percent did not receive the Tdap shot, which also protects against tetanus and diphtheria, during the third trimester of pregnancy.