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California parents urged to vaccinate their kids after teen with whooping cough may have exposed 40

California parents urged to vaccinate their kids after a teen diagnosed with whooping cough may have exposed 40 others to the disease

  • A teenager in Eureka, California, tested positive for whooping cough last week
  • Health officials from Humboldt County say the teenager may have exposed 40 people during his or her contagious period 
  • They are being contacted and recommended to get a booster vaccine  

A California teenager who was diagnosed with whooping cough may have exposed dozens to the highly infectious disease.

The teen from Eureka – about 80 miles south of the Oregon-California border – tested positive last week, according to officials from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). 

During an investigation of the case, the communicable disease division identified 40 people that the teenager may have exposed during their contagious period.

All are being contacted – and advised to get a booster vaccine if they didn’t receive one as a child, according to a DHHS release.

Heath officials say the infection is cyclical, peaking every three to five years and, because the last outbreak was in 2014, another could be just around the corner.

Officials from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services say a teenager in Eureka, California, may have exposed 40 people to whooping cough (file image)

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a respiratory tract infection that is highly contagious.

When someone coughs, sneezes or talks, infected droplets are sprayed into the air, where other people can inhale them and are then infected.

In serious cases, sufferers experience bouts of coughing that end with a ‘whoop’ sound when a breath is taken. 

The first symptoms usually resemble those of a cold or flu including coughing, runny nose and a fever.

However, after one to two weeks, sufferers experience severe coughing fits due to mucus blocking the airways, which can last up to 100 days.

Humboldt County had an outbreak of pertussis in 2014 with 190 cases confirmed and more than 11,000 across the state of California, according to the release.

This is the first local case reported since 2016. 

The best protection against whooping cough comes from the DTaP vaccine, which also protects against diphtheria and tetanus. It is given as a series at two months, four months, six months, 15 to 18 months, and then four to six years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children between ages 11 and 12 receive a booster with a similar vaccine called Tdap.

According to the press release, 91 percent of kindergartners in Humboldt County have received all five doses of the vaccine.    

‘Even if the CDC vaccination schedule is closely followed it still sometimes falls short for pertussis in particular, due in part to waning immunity,’ said Public Health Supervising Communicable Disease Nurse Hava Phillips in a statement.

Humboldt County’s DHHS did not immediately reply to’s request for comment.

Prior to the vaccine’s introduction in the 1940s, about 200,000 children contracted whooping cough every year with about 90,000 dying.

According to the CDC’s latest figures, nearly 13,500 cases were reported in 2018 with about 10 deaths.

But, even after a child receives all five doses, the DTaP and Tdap vaccines are between 80 and 90 percent effective, lower than the rates for other vaccine-preventable diseases.