Los Angeles County health officials have issued a warning to parents of infants because of an increased number of pertussis or whooping cough cases being reported.
Infants are at a higher risk of contracting the cough, which causes intense coughing, vomiting related to coughing, and could lead to pneumonia and seizures.
According to information released by the County of Los Angeles Public Health there have been 148 suspected cases in L.A. County, of which 70 have been lab-confirmed to meet the clinical case definition for pertussis.
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"Infants under one year of age are at highest risk for developing severe, even fatal complications. However, these vulnerable residents are not eligible for vaccination against whooping cough due to their age," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "Therefore, it is up to those that live with or care for an infant to ensure that they themselves are protected against pertussis. Parents, grandparents, older siblings, day care workers, and other caregivers who have whooping cough are most likely to pass on their infection to an infant. It is important that those who are eligible for the pertussis vaccine immediately seek out vaccine."
In total last year L.A. County confirmed 155 cases of whooping cough, and the increase in the number of cases statewide has forced the state to call the rise a epidemic.
"We are on track to exceed last year's countywide total of pertussis cases," Said Fielding. "Two infants have already died this year due to pertussis, which is a serious concern. This disease is vaccine-preventable, and it is up to those who are able to get the vaccine to become the first line of defense against whopping cough." In an average year, Los Angeles County has one or no deaths attributable to pertussis.
According to the County of Los Angeles Public Health Pertussis is spread by the coughing of an infected individual. Typical symptoms in young children include intense coughing accompanied by a whooping sound, and post-cough vomiting. Among older children and adults, the primary symptom may be a cough that often lasts for several weeks or longer.
Children should receive three primary vaccinations containing the pertussis vaccine and two boosters by age four to six, followed by a TDaP booster, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis, during their preteen years. Any teen or adult who has not received a TDaP booster yet should do so, particularly if they live in a household with an infant.
It is also recommended that residents practice standard hygiene habits in order to help prevent the spread of any illness. Those healthy habits include washing your hands often with soap and water, staying home from work or school when sick, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and covering coughs and sneezes appropriately with a tissue.
Those who do not have a regular healthcare provider or insurance coverage for vaccines may dial 2-1-1 or visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip  for referrals to providers and community sites offering immunizations free or at a reduced charge.
For more information on preventing the spread of whooping cough or other illnesses, click here .