County Confirms First Local Whooping Cough Case Since 2016

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Humboldt County public health officials are on alert after a Eureka teenager tested positive for the highly contagious whooping cough earlier this week.

According to a press release from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, a follow up investigation identified 40 people who may have had contact with the teenager while he or she was contagious.

Officially known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial respiratory infection that can cause serious health risks for people of all ages, with infants at the greatest risk.

“About half of infants diagnosed with pertussis will be hospitalized, so it’s critically important that pregnant women are vaccinated during their third trimester to provide newborns with maternal antibodies,” said Public Health Supervising Communicable Disease Nurse Hava Phillips.

The infection typically begins with common cold-like symptoms but can progress to severe coughing fits.

The county had an outbreak back in 2014, when more than 190 cases were confirmed, according to the press release. This is the first local case reported since 2016.

The California Department of Health recommends children be vaccinated for pertussis and that anyone over the age of 11 get a booster shot, if they have not received one.

See the full press release from the county copied below:


Health & Human Services officials urge vaccination
in wake of new pertussis case

Public Health officials were notified late Wednesday that a Eureka teen has tested positive for pertussis, also known as whooping cough, which is a highly contagious respiratory disease.

In a follow-up investigation, communicable disease staff identified 40 possible contacts during the patient’s contagious period. All are now being notified.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pertussis is a cyclical bacterial infection that peaks every three to five years. Immunity, whether from getting the vaccine or from having the disease, typically wears off within five years, leaving previously immune children susceptible again by adolescence.

“Even if the CDC vaccination schedule is closely followed it still sometimes falls short for pertussis in particular, due in part to waning immunity,” said Public Health Supervising Communicable Disease Nurse Hava Phillips.

During a 2014 outbreak in Humboldt County, there were over 190 confirmed cases of pertussis. Statewide in 2014, more than 11,000 Californians tested positive. More than 9,000 cases were reported in 2010, with 808 hospitalizations and 10 infant deaths. In 2017 and 2018, no cases were reported in Humboldt County.

The CDC, notes that pertussis can cause serious health effects for people of all ages, but infants are at higher risk.

“About half of infants diagnosed with pertussis will be hospitalized, so it’s critically important that pregnant women are vaccinated during their third trimester to provide newborns with maternal antibodies,” said Phillips.

CDPH strongly recommends a booster shot for anyone over 11 years old who has not yet received one.

The CDC states that illness typically begins with cold-like symptoms and sometimes a mild cough or fever before progressing to severe coughing fits. In babies, the cough can be minimal or nonexistent. Babies may have a symptom known as “apnea,” which is a pause in the child’s breathing pattern.

Countywide, just over 91 percent of kindergartners have received all required doses of the vaccine. More than 93 percent of 7th graders have received a booster.

For additional information about pertussis, visit the CDPH website, talk to your medical provider or phone the Public Health Branch Communicable Disease Program at 707-268-2182. To make an appointment for a vaccine, contact your healthcare provider or call the Public Health Clinic at 707-268-2108.

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