A whooping cough epidemic is currently infecting California, says the California Department of Public Health. In just the last two weeks, over 800 cases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, have been reported in the state. Already, almost 3,500 cases have been reported this year, which is more than all the cases in 2013.
While the number of cases is alarming, officials have said that the sickness spikes every 3 to 5 years, and the last time it spiked was in 2010. That makes it very possible that the sickness is spiking this year, which would result in such a large number of reported cases.
Whooping cough is extremely contagious and is spread through the air. Infants and young children are most likely to get it, as adults have been vaccinated for the disease. However, even adults who have gotten vaccinated may still get the disease.
“Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity,” Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “However, vaccination is still the best defense against the potentially fatal diseases.”
Whooping cough has a number of symptoms. The disease begins with mild symptoms, such as coughing, having a runny nose, sneezing, and other symptoms usually attributed to the common cold. After a week or two, the symptoms can become worse, and may include a shortness of breath, vomiting, severe coughing attacks, and more.
Although some of the symptoms are bad, the disease does not generally lead to death. If a patient does catch whooping cough, he or she is usually treated with antibiotics. The total length of the illness is about 6-8 weeks, although some of the worst symptoms will fade away before then.