N.Y., Calif., See Whooping Cough Outbreaks

NEW YORK, Sept. 24 (UPI) — New York health officials are urging parents to vaccinate their children against pertussis, commonly known as “whooping cough,” as reported cases escalate.

Data for the first eight months of 2010 show 383 cases compared with 181 cases for the same period in 2009, a State Department of Health release said Friday.

About 30 percent of patients with pertussis require hospitalization, the release said, and about 70 percent of those hospitalized are infants under the age of six months.

“Pertussis is quite contagious and can be serious, especially for infants less than one year old,” State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said.

“Timely vaccination against pertussis provides the best protection. In fact, if it weren’t for widespread vaccinations among children and adults, we’d see many more cases of pertussis,” he said.

Pertussis is a bacterial infection of the respiratory tract easily spread through the air in droplets from an infected person by sneezing or coughing.

The illness starts with cold symptoms and a cough, which becomes much worse during the first one or two weeks. The cough may last for months.

New York is not alone in seeing increased cases of whooping cough, experts say.

California reported more than 4,200 cases so far this year, putting the state on track to break a 55-year record for infections. Nine people have died, all of them infants, CBS News reported.

Vaccine advocates say the current California outbreak is happening because most adults don’t realize they need a booster shot.

Anyone who’s going to be around babies should make especially sure they’re up to date with all vaccines, health officials say.

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