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Whooping Cough Declared an Epidemic in California

Update Date: Jun 16, 2014 09:18 AM EDT

California state health officials have declared whooping cough an epidemic after the number of cases spiked by more than 800 over the time span of two weeks. The California State Department of Public Health believes that whooping cough, which is also known as pertussis, could be spreading quickly throughout the state.

According to the numbers, there have been 3,458 reported cases from the beginning of this year to June 10 with two infant fatalities in California alone. This number has already surpassed the total amount of cases counted last year. There have been around 350 new cases confirmed in Los Angeles County. In Long Beach, the rate of infection is around 20 cases per 100,000 people. Roughly two-thirds of the patients who were hospitalized for whooping cough were children aged four-months or younger.

"Preventing severe disease and death in infants is our highest priority," Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the health department, stated, according to NBC News Southern California. "We urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated. We also urge parents to vaccinate infants as soon as possible."

Health officials explained that pertussis tends to peak every three to five years. The last time the state dealt with a whooping cough epidemic was in 2010 when there were a total of 9,159 cases with 10 infant deaths. Infants are the most vulnerable to whooping cough. In order to prevent the infection, children and pregnant women are recommended to get vaccinated. California is currently working with local health departments and schools to increase awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated.

Symptoms of the infection are similar to the cold, but with pertussis, patients' cough tend to progress to severe coughing fits that make it very difficult to breathe. So far, California is the only state to declare an epidemic. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the national number of pertussis cases increased by 24 percent from this time last year.

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