O.C. Baby Dies From Whooping Cough, Marking 1st Death From Disease in California This Year

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)

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 Orange County baby has died after contracting whooping cough, marking the first infant death from the disease this year in California, health officials said Thursday.

No additional details were immediately released about the case or the child, who was from somewhere in Orange County, according to a news release from the California Department of Public Health.

The whooping cough death is the first confirmed fatality since last July, when an infant in San Bernardino passed away after contracting the illness.

Prior to that, there hadn’t been a death from the disease in the state since 2016, when two fatal cases were reported, according to public health officials.

Also known as pertussis, whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness that can be spread by coughing or sneezing, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention.

The illness leads to between 50 and 200 infant hospitalizations annually in California, the department reported last year.

Health officials urge pregnant women to get a Tdap booster shoot — which helps protect against whooping cough — between 27 to 36 weeks, regardless of whether or not they’ve been immunized before, the release stated.

Newborns should start receiving the vaccine around 6 to 8 weeks old. Booster shots are recommended when the child hits the seventh grade, while adults should get one in their lifetime.

“To give babies the best protection, I urge all pregnant women to get vaccinated against whooping cough as early as possible during the third trimester of every pregnancy,” said Dr. Karen Smith, director of the state health department “The best way to prevent whooping cough is by getting vaccinated.”

Both children and adults can contract pertussis, but the symptoms vary by age.

Children typically start out with a runny and nose and cough, which worsens after one to two weeks, according to the department. A whooping sound at the end of the cough is a good indicator that the child is infected with the disease.

Infants, however, may not have typical symptoms. Instead, the infant’s face may turn red or purple as irregular breathing patterns develop.

In adults, the illness presents itself as a cough lasting for several weeks.

More information about whooping cough can be found here.

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