California is in the midst of a major outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough. The state Department of Public Health says more than 8,000 people have fallen ill and ten infants have died from the preventable disease in 2010 alone. Infants too young to have received the vaccine are the most vulnerable. Whooping cough is named for the characteristic “whooping” sound patients make as they gasp for breath. The violent wracking cough can last for months and can even cause broken ribs. But if it is caught early and the victim is not a newborn, patients can recover after being treated with antibiotics.
Right now all parents must show proof of vaccination in order to enroll their child in kindergarten – so most kids get the series of five shots before age six. But the immunity wears off in five to ten years.
In the wake of the recent pertussis outbreak, the Governor signed legislation last fall mandating a booster shot for all children entering 7th through 12th grades. The shot is called a T-Dap, which stands for tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. It is available at your child’s pediatrician’s office. The local county Public Health Departments will also be offering free or low-cost shots.
Authorities estimate that as much as 50% of 7th -12th graders will need to get the booster shot. If your child has received a tetanus shot in the past few years, it may have been a T-dap. Parents are advised to check with their pediatrician to verify that the child received a T-dap and just a tetanus shot.
School nurse Gennette Furtado of Palm Springs Unified School District says parents will have to bring in the immunization card to their school site. If they don’t, the child will not be allowed to attend school. Parents who are opposed to vaccinations do have the option of requesting a PBE – a personal belief exemption. Or they can get a letter from the doctor stating that the shot is contraindicated for their child. But in recent years tens of thousands of parents have opted out, and this is thought to play a role in the recent outbreak. So public health officials hope parents will consider the public good. They are urging families to get this booster shot for their children ASAP to avoid the mad rush in the weeks before school starts in the fall.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that all adults get the pertussis booster as well, especially parents and grandparents of newborns, and child care workers. Some colleges are also now asking for the booster. The CDC recommends incoming freshmen be vaccinated for Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Chicken Pox and the flu, and a number of states are requiring college students to get the vaccine that protects against meningococcal meningitis. (It is recommended but not required in California)
Visit the CDC website has more information.
Visit the website for California Department of Public Health’s Pertussis website: