San Bernardino County, CA, July 30, 2010, 12:15pm – In California, pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, has reached epidemic levels with the rising number of cases in the state making this possibly the worst outbreak of the disease in over 50 years. Pertussis is a bacterial illness spread through the air from person to person, through close contact with droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes. The illness starts with cold-like symptoms that get more severe after one to two weeks. Rapid coughing fits follow, that may have a whooping sound, lasting 6 to 10 weeks. Public health officials are reminding San Bernardino County residents about the importance of getting vaccinated. The adolescent-adult pertussis booster vaccine, called Tdap, is now recommended for anyone 7 years of age or older who is not fully immunized including those who are more than 64 years old. Also, women of childbearing age as well as pregnant women and anyone who is in contact with pregnant women or infants should be vaccined. Immunity from pertussis vaccine or disease wears off, so most adults are susceptible and should get immunized to protect themselves and their families. Infants are especially vulnerable if they are not immunized or incompletely immunized as children under the age of 12 months have more serious illness from pertussis, and they are more likely to have complications and be hospitalized than persons in other age groups. Children can get the first pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age but they aren’t adequately protected until the series of three shots is complete at 6 months of age. There have been 1,496 cases of whooping cough recorded in California in the first six months of this year. San Bernardino County has had 17 confirmed cases and one death since January. Residents should contact their health care provider for vaccine information. San Bernardino County Department of Public Health provides the pertussis vaccine in all its clinics. For clinic locations and schedules call 1-800-782-4262 or visit the website at sbcounty.gov/dph.