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Press Release

Soaring Whooping Cough Infections Set to Hit New Record High in Contra Costa

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

If the current rate of whooping cough infection holds pace in Contra Costa, health officials warn this year could be even worse than last, when a record 205 cases were reported.

To date, at least 78 cases have been reported in Contra Costa and 733 statewide. Three of those in Contra Costa were hospitalized infants, according to Contra Costa Health Services. Whooping cough, sometimes called pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can be fatal for infants. Health officials are advising people to be vaccinated, cover their coughs and stay home if sick.

CCHS Immunization Coordinator Erika Jenssen said the trend is worrisome. "We're seeing more than 10 times the number of cases we had in 2009 and are on pace to pass last year's record," she said. "Getting parents and children vaccinated against whooping cough and other contagious diseases is a vital part of staying healthy."

Jenssen said vaccine is widely available and people should contact their regular health care provider. CCHS has scheduled 14 free drop-in immunization clinics for members of its Contra Costa Health Plan and Health Centers running from Tuesday, May 3 to Thursday, May 5. The health department's Public Health Division also has weekly drop-in clinics for people without health insurance. Visit for clinic times and locations.

A new law also aims to increase protection against whooping cough throughout Contra Costa and the state. Beginning this fall, all students in private and public schools entering seventh- through 12th-grade must show proof they've received a whooping cough booster—called Tdap—before beginning classes.

"It's a safety measure to ensure kids don't bring illnesses home from school and spread them to their families, particularly infants," Jenssen said, adding that most other states have had similar laws in place. "We've seen that these types of laws do have an effect, and that is more community immunity and less illness."

To find out more about whooping cough and how to get vaccinated, visit

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