California: Whooping cough epidemic

A whooping cough epidemic has been declared in California after the deaths of five infants.

State health authorities are urging residents, particularly those of Latino background, to get vaccinated against the highly contagious disease, which is often mistaken for a cold or the flu, The New York Times reported.

So far, 910 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) have been confirmed, and several hundred more cases are under investigation, says the California Department of Public Health. If the outbreak continues at the current pace, it could be the largest in the state in 50 years.

Compared with 2009, there has been a four-fold increase in the number of whooping cough cases so far this year, said Dr. Gilberto Chavex, deputy director of the public health department's Centre for Infectious Disease. The worse may be yet to come, he added.

"The peak season starts in summer. And we expect to see a much larger number of cases if we don't intervene quickly," he told The Times. - (HealthDay News, June 2010)

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