Monterey County health officials urged people to protect their babies Monday after learning of the first whooping cough death since 2010.
Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, claimed the life of a Riverside County baby, who was less than six months old, the California Department of Public Health announced.
Pertussis is cyclical with peaks in incidence occurring every 3 to 5 years. California experienced a pertussis epidemic in 2010 with more than 9,100 cases statewide; 10 deaths were reported. After declining steadily from the peak in 2010, monthly case reports began increasing in mid-2013.
"This tragic case illustrates that pertussis is and continues to be a serious threat to young infants," warns Dr. Edward Moreno, Monterey County Health Officer in a news release. "I strongly encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated. Immunity developed by the mother during pregnancy is passed to the newborn infant. I also encourage parents to vaccinate their babies on time, which helps their babies strengthen their own immunity to pertussis. For infants, pertussis vaccinations typically start at two months of age, but adequate protection doesn't occur until about six months of age."
In 2013, Monterey County Health Department confirmed 48 pertussis cases. In 2014, there have been six pertussis cases confirmed.
The health department encourages adults who care for babies to receive their pertussis booster shot. Officials say booster shots for pertussis are critical because neither the vaccine nor pertussis disease confers lifelong immunity.