Whooping cough outbreak in California: vaccinate to protect

  • Published
  • By Shari Lopatin
  • TriWest Healthcare Alliance
An outbreak of whooping cough has swept across California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whooping cough, also known as "Pertussis," is an upper-respiratory infection. It's extremely contagious and can be deadly to infants, according to the CDC. It can also cause adults to become very sick.

For the first eight months of 2010, the CDC reported more than 3,000 cases of whooping cough in California, including eight infant deaths. This is a seven-fold increase from the same time period in 2009--where only 434 cases were reported across California.

Get vaccinated! TRICARE covers it . . .
A vaccine does exist for whooping cough, as does a booster shot for adults who received the vaccine as children. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent whooping cough is to immunize against it.

Whooping cough is most dangerous to infants. More than half of infected babies younger than 1 year old must be hospitalized, according to the CDC. Therefore, getting vaccinated is especially important for families with infants, to prevent spreading the disease to their child. Additionally, caregivers working around babies and young children should get the immunization.

Because the immunity provided by the vaccine for whooping cough fades with time, a booster shot is available for pre-teens, teens and adults.

The whooping cough immunization is a TRICARE-covered benefit. Military families should talk to their doctors about it.

What are the symptoms?
According to the CDC, whooping cough usually begins with cold-like symptoms, followed by severe coughing one to two weeks later. These coughing fits may continue for 10 weeks or more.

Early symptoms include:
· Runny nose
· Low-grade fever
· Mild, occasional cough
· In infants, "apnea"--a pause in breathing

However, as the disease progresses, the traditional symptoms of whooping cough will develop and include:
· Many fits of rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched "whoop"
· Throwing up
· Exhaustion and fatigue after coughing fits

Should you believe you or your child has become infected with whooping cough, seek treatment immediately. Early treatment is very important, according to the CDC.

Where can I get more information?
The CDC has some of the most up-to-date information on the whooping cough outbreaks. Find tips on prevention, treatment, symptoms and statistics at www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/index.html.

Additionally, follow TriWest Healthcare Alliance on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the whooping cough outbreaks. TriWest is the regional contractor responsible for administering the TRICARE health benefit in 21 western states, including California. Follow TriWest at: