As public health officials prepare for a possible outbreak of whooping cough, the death of a baby in San Bernardino County from the disease has prompted warnings that pregnant women should be vaccinated.
The death announced Tuesday marked the first time the disease had killed an infant in California in two years. State and county officials would not say when the child died or provide any further details.
The disease is most dangerous for infants too young to be vaccinated against it, so public health officials urge all expectant mothers to be immunized. But state data show that of pregnant women in California, those in San Bernardino County were among the least likely to have been vaccinated.
“If you want to prevent deaths from pertussis in the U.S. then you have to immunize mothers,” said Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Whooping cough, named for the sound people make when they’re gasping for air, kills about 20 people in the United States each year, almost all of them infants.
The death comes amid warnings that California could be in for an outbreak in 2018, though officials said Tuesday that this death does not signal that one has begun. Whooping cough outbreaks tend to hit every three to five years and California’s last were in 2010 and 2014.
Doctors recommend that pregnant mothers get a booster shot between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. The shot can protect the baby until it is old enough to begin receiving its own pertussis immunizations at about 2 months.
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SOURCE: LA Times, Soumya Karlamangla