The ongoing pertussis epidemic in California demonstrates the danger still posed by diseases once thought to be gone in the U.S. There are reports of more than 6,400 cases so far in California this year, the most since 1958. While pertussis can affect people of any age and in fact, national rates have been rising in adults, it is the infants who adults pass this on to who bear the burden. Ten infants, all younger than three months, have died from whooping cough in California this year.
Patrick Joseph, M.D., a California infectious disease physician who is NFID’s vice president, implored adults to get the one-time booster vaccine, “While the epidemic is in adults, the tragedy is in kids. The situation is grave when babies too young to be immunized are dying.”
Dr. Joseph said this crisis means California doesn’t have the luxury of bringing people along slowly. The time to increase vaccination rates for pertussis is now. The California Department of Public Health recommends pertussis boosters for all adults, including those over 65, a move supported by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). At its October meeting, ACIP voted to extend pertussis booster vaccination recommendations to include adults 65 and older nationwide.
While California has been hardest hit so far, many other areas have seen increased cases this year, including Ohio, South Carolina, Michigan, Texas, Idaho, upstate New York and the Philadelphia suburbs. Since pertussis knows no boundaries, Dr. Joseph voiced his hope that adults outside his home state would also take notice and seek a Tdap vaccine now to protect themselves and infants around them.