(SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.) – “Pertussis is now an epidemic in California’,” states the San Bernardino County Public Health Department website.
Statewide, there have been 910 cases of pertussis, which causes “whooping cough,” reported from January through June 15, the county health department reports. This compares to only 219 cases in the first six months of 2009.
Five infants – all under three months of age – have died from the disease since January. One death was in San Bernardino County this spring.
“But, there is a way to prevent this disease from spreading,” said Dr. Albert Arteaga, president of LaSalle Medical Associates. “That is by making sure all children are immunized against this sometimes deadly disease.”
Babies should receive immunization against pertussis at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age, according to the Center for Disease Control. Young children should receive booster shots between 15-18 months, and again at ages 4-5 years.
Pertussis, which is administered with vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus, is one of the required immunizations children must have before they begin school. The vaccine given to children age 6 and younger is known as DTaP.
“With many schools in the Inland Empire returning to a new year in August, parents should schedule back-to-school immunizations immediately,” Dr. Arteaga said. “If they wait until only a few days before school starts to make the appointment, we may not be able to see them before their new school year begins.”
“Pertussis is a very serious threat this year,” Dr. Arteaga added. “Children can avoid it and many other diseases simply by staying current on immunizations.”
Four booster immunizations – including DTaP – are needed for all kindergarteners before entering school for the first time, said Dr. Cheryl Emoto, director of medical services. And, as they grow older, children need additional immunizations.
“Children entering kindergarten should receive boosters for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), polio, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and Varicella (chicken pox),” Dr. Emoto said. “Fortunately, there is a combination vaccine that is available that allows for only three injections instead of four.”
If parents have kept up with their child’s immunizations from birth, only the above booster immunizations are needed. However, if the child is behind on their other required immunizations, they may need several doses of immunizations to get “caught up.”
New this year, says Dr. Emoto, is an updated pneumococcal vaccine (Prevnar 13). This vaccine includes added protection as compared to the older version (Prevnar 7) and all children between 15 months and 5 years of age should have one additional dose of the newer Prevnar, “even if your doctor previously told you that your child was up-to-date.”
When children turn 11, they should receive the meningitis vaccine for the first time, and a Tdap booster, Dr. Emoto said Tdap covers the same diseases (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis). The Tdap vaccine is particularly important this year because of the pertussis epidemic.
Parents should schedule these vaccines shortly after the child’s 11th birthday, but they also can be part of a back-to-school immunization routine for any student, even those over 18.
“Children older than 11 who have not received these vaccines should also come in to get them,” she said. “And if you have a teenager who is enrolling in college, planning to live in a dormitory, and hasn’t been vaccinated for meningitis and Tdap, they should be vaccinated now.”
The LaSalle Medical Associates clinics are at 17577 Arrow Blvd. in Fontana, 1505 West 17th St. and 565 N. Mt. Vernon Ave. in San Bernardino, and 16455 Main St. in Hesperia.
For additional information about LaSalle Medical Associates, call (909) 890-0407.