Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a contagious disease affecting the lungs. It is caused by a bacteria that can spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks near to other people. Pertussis can affect people of all ages but infants younger than 6 months are at greatest risk for severe disease leading to hospitalization and death. The highest rates of pertussis are seen in infants who are too young to have received all their pertussis vaccines, and in teenagers 14 to 17 years old whose pertussis vaccine protection has “worn off”.
Although thousands of cases of pertussis are reported each year in California, the numbers of cases peak every 3 to 5 years. California had large increases in pertussis in 2010 (over 9,000 cases and 10 infant deaths), 2014 (almost 11,000 cases and 2 infant deaths), and 2018 cases are currently increasing. Like the rest of California, Alameda County has also had large increases in pertussis cases in 2010, 2014, and early 2018. We’ve seen the most cases this year in high school-aged children.
Alameda County Public Health is issuing this update to inform the public of the current situation and raise awareness of the steps that the public can take to protect their health.