06/25/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

Los Angeles, CA—The state of California has deemed an outbreak of “whooping cough” to be an epidemic, noting that if cases continue to accumulate as they have thus far, the epidemic could be the worst seen in the last 50 years. The number of cases seen this year are a whopping 400 percent higher than those seen last year, according to a June 24, 2010 CBS News report.

According to California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director Dr. Mark Horton, “Children should be vaccinated against the disease and parents, family members and caregivers of infants need a booster shot.”

Health authorities noted cases of whooping cough, formally known as pertussis, have a tendency to peak every two to five years.

So far, there have been 910 cases of whopping cough reported throughout California. Five of those cases proved fatal in babies diagnosed with the illness.

Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated one in about 20 infants suffering from pertussis become sickened with pneumonia. Also, one in 100 infants will apparently suffer convulsions and half of all infants under the age of 1 require hospital care. The contagious disease has the potential to prove fatal in severe cases.

Though the disease is considered vaccine-preventable, young infants are particularly vulnerable to it. Given that the first three injections for whooping cough are administered from two to six months of age, unimmunized or incompletely immunized babies are especially susceptible to the illness.

Additionally, though vaccines are regarded as extremely crucial and very efficient, the vaccinations unfortunately do not guarantee 100 percent effectiveness.

Parents, family members and caregivers are advised to use caution around infants as a means of protecting them from the harmful bacteria that causes whooping cough, Bordetella pertussis.

“The disease starts like the common cold, with runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and maybe mild cough or fever. But after 1–2 weeks, severe coughing begins. Infants and children with the disease cough violently and rapidly, over and over, until the air is gone from their lungs and they’re forced to inhale with a loud “whooping” sound,” the CDC said.

In 2008, there were 13,000 reported cases of whooping cough throughout the nation. Of those, 18 proved lethal.

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan.

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