San Bernardino Infant Dies From Whooping Cough; 1st Confirmed Death From Disease in California in 2 Years

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A Los Angeles Unified School District nurse prepares a whooping cough vaccine for a student at Huntington Park High School in 2011. The district has a number of upcoming clinics where students can get vaccinated. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

An infant in San Bernardino died from the disease commonly referred to as whooping cough, officials announced Tuesday.

The infant’s passing is the first confirmed death since 2016, when two deaths from the disease were reported, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health.

“This baby’s death is a tragedy for the family and for California as a community, as this is a preventable disease,” said Karen Smith, CDPH director and state public health officer.

Smith, a proponent of booster shots, considers immunizations as “the first line of defense.” She urges pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough during the third trimester of every pregnancy.

“No baby should have to be hospitalized due to a vaccine-preventable disease, and certainly no baby should die,” she said.

The department reports that 50 to 200 infants in the state are hospitalized annually because of the disease.

Aside from the immunization of pregnant women, the department also recommends parents immunize their children as early as six weeks of age and get them a booster shot called “Tdap” when the child is in 7th grade, the news release said.

Adults also should receive a booster shot at least once.

While symptoms of the disease vary, most begin with runny noses and a persistent cough. If the cough worsens and ends with a whooping sound, this is an indication of the disease, the department said.

But for infants, typical symptoms may not be apparent. An infant’s face may turn red or purple or the infant may have irregular breathing patterns, the CDPH reported.

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