RIVERSIDE — A Riverside County child died of complications related to whopping cough, in the first known fatal case in the state this year, health officials said Friday.
According to the Riverside County Department of Public Health, the 2-month-old had not been vaccinated for whooping cough, also known as pertussis, nor had the infant’s mother received a booster shot while she was pregnant.
The child was not identified, though county health department Communicable Diseases Specialist Barbara Cole confirmed the infant was from the southwest county area.
“This serves as a sad reminder that illnesses like whooping cough are still very much with us, and immunizations are the first line of defense,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County.
“We strongly encourage pregnant women to get vaccinated, all parents to vaccinate their children on time, and for adults to keep current with their booster shots to reduce the spread of the disease.”
Pertussis vaccinations can begin when a child is as young as 2 months old, health officials said.
California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ron Chapman said pregnant mothers can get a pertussis booster by their third trimester.
“Preventing deaths in infants by ensuring that all pregnant women get vaccinated is our primary goal in pertussis control,” Chapman said.
“When pregnant women are vaccinated, the immunity they develop against pertussis is passed to their infants and helps protect infants until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.
“Young infants are at the greatest risk of severe or fatal pertussis.”
Health officials noted that whooping cough cases had moderated since peaking in 2010, when 9,100 cases and 10 deaths were reported in California.
However, the number of infections began to surge again last summer, and 83 percent of those with symptoms were youths under 18 — 12 percent of whom were infants less than 6 months old, according to the state.
Officials said children need five doses of pertussis vaccine before they reach kindergarten, while adults should be inoculated if they’re in regular contact with toddlers or are healthcare workers.
Pertussis usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough.
The symptoms may be mild and brief, or last for weeks, and are often followed by severe coughing fits.
In children, coughing spells end with a whooping sound. However, infants may not reveal the typical symptoms but instead turn red or purple from hampered breathing.