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Press Release

Sharp Rise in Whooping Cough Prompts Free Vaccines, Outreach

June 17, 2010

A dramatic rise in whooping cough cases recently in the Bay Area is leading Contra Costa health officials to intensify outreach efforts and offer free vaccinations to prevent serious illness.

Contra Costa Health Services had confirmed 40 cases of the respiratory illness, also known as pertussis, in its county as of June 16. In 2009, there were 18 cases. According to the California Department of Public Health, there were six times as many whooping cough cases in the Bay Area between January and May compared to the same time period last year.

"Whooping cough is very contagious and can be especially serious for young children," said Dr. Wendel Brunner, Director of Public Health for Contra Costa Health Services. "Our best protection against whooping cough is to have as many people immunized as possible."

To help people get vaccinated against whooping cough, Contra Costa Health Services is offering coupons for a free booster shot called Tdap. The coupons are available at many locations throughout the county and online at

Contra Costa Health Services will also offer free whooping cough vaccine to anyone under 65 years of age from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 25 at its Women, Infants and Children clinic in Richmond, located at 100 38th Street.

Contra Costa Health Services Immunization Coordinator Erika Jenssen said everyone should be immunized against the disease—especially those who come in contact with infants.

"Whooping cough is not just a childhood disease," she said. "In fact, nearly half of all infants who get whooping cough are infected by their parents."

The germ that causes whooping cough is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms of whooping cough begin with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks followed by weeks of coughing fits. In some cases there is a low fever. Dr. Brunner said people with symptoms should see their health care provider for testing and diagnosis.

More information, including a podcast, videocast and fact sheets, is available in English and Spanish at

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  • Kate Fowlie
  • 925-313-6268