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Whooping cough now an epidemic in California

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According to a statement just released by the California Department of Public Health, pertussis — whooping cough — is now officially an epidemic in California.

That’s right: an almost completely preventable disease is coming back with a roar in California. There have been well over 900 cases of pertussis in that state this year, over four times as many as this time last year (and 600 more suspected cases are being investigated). If this keeps up, California may see more cases in 2010 than it has in 50 years.

If that doesn’t anger and sicken you enough, then this most assuredly will: there have been five deaths this year from pertussis as well, all babies under three months of age.

Infants aren’t fully protected against pertussis until they have completed the first schedule of vaccinations, when they reach 6 months. Before then, they are vulnerable to the disease. The most likely reservoir for the bacterium? Unvaccinated people, including other children. If too many people go unvaccinated, the disease can find a host and survive long enough to infect others. If enough people are vaccinated, that chance drops. This effect is called herd immunity, and it’s the only thing that can keep this highly contagious and potentially fatal disease away from infants.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/06/23/whooping-cough-now-an-epidemic-in-california/

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