BY CHRISTINE BEDELL, Californian government editor email@example.com
They are both young and old. Men and women. Hispanic and not. And they're scattered throughout Bakersfield.
The locals who've contracted the respiratory infection whooping cough, or Pertussis, this year vary widely and because there have been so many, health officials are stepping up their call for people -- especially those around young children -- to make sure they're vaccinated.
WHOOPING COUGH IN KERN*
Here's a breakdown of the 2010 whooping cough cases reported in Kern as of July 2.
Up to 6 months: 37
6-2 months: 9
13-18 months: 3
19-23 months: 0
2-5 years: 10
6-8 years: 5
9-11 years: 12
12-19 years: 14
More than 20 years: 30
Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department
It's reminiscent of the campaign launched when the H1N1 (swine) flu hit this past year. In fact, Kaiser Permanente is employing lessons learned then about getting information out quickly to members and staff, said Dr. Paul Fuller, assistant area medical director for Kaiser in Kern County.
It's also making sure all its health care workers who interact with children are vaccinated against the highly contagious illness, he said.
In the same vein, the Kern County Department of Public Health Services has begun posting, weekly, the latest local whooping cough numbers on its website as it did for H1N1.
The number of Pertussis cases reported in Kern (mostly Bakersfield) spiked from 75 on June 18 to 120 on July 2, according to the department. That compares to just six cases in all of 2009 and eight in 2008.
Since 1995, the highest annual total has been 61 in 2005.
"It's across the community," said Kern County Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah. "We don't want anyone to think it's on the other side of town."
Californiawide, whooping cough was declared an epidemic after more than 900 cases were reported as of June 15. The state number reached 1,337 on June 30, officials said Thursday.
These jumps in cases happen about every five years, Jonah said. Fortunately, she said, we have a newer tool for fighting back: new vaccines approved in 2005 for adolescents and adults.
A rule of thumb? If you're an adult who hasn't gotten a tetanus shot since 2005 and you're around young children, you should get a Tdap booster that includes protection from Pertussis, said Public Health spokeswoman Kim Rodriguez.
As for children, she said they should be vaccinated at six weeks, receive a booster when they go into kindergarten and get another booster around age 9.
Based on a chat with Jonah, here's what else you need to know about whooping cough:
I don't know if I've been vaccinated for whooping cough. What should I do?
Anyone who cares for or is around young children, especially those younger than 18 months old, should get vaccinated or a booster shot.
Pregnant women should make sure their vaccinations are up to date, as should anyone who will be in the home when the newborn comes home.
How do you spot whooping cough?
It's easier to distinguish from a regular cough in children. They cough, cough, cough then almost lose their breath, causing them to make a "whooping" noise at the end. Adults don't necessarily experience the same thing, their cough just persists for weeks.
Jonah recommended adults see a doctor if their cough lingers longer than a week. A lab test would be needed to confirm whooping cough.
How serious an illness is it?
Whooping cough can kill very young children. It's not as threatening to adults, but should be treated.
What is the treatment?
It's easily treated with antibiotics.
Where can I get treated?
The Kern County Public Health Services Department is offering low-cost vaccinations (for less than $15) to people in high-risk groups. They're available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Bakersfield clinic, 1800 Mount Vernon Ave.
Otherwise contact your doctor.