Pregnant women and parents of newborns and infants should take notice of a new health alert in Santa Barbara County; The number of potentially fatal pertussis cases is on the rise.
Pertussis, also known as "whooping cough," attacks the respiratory system. Infants under the age of one are most vulnerable because they're too young to be vaccinated.
Dr. Charity Thoman, Santa Barbara County's Health Officer, said pertussis cases spike every four to five years and the county is right on target to reach as many as forty cases by the end of 2014.
"This is a big deal," Thoman told NewsChannel 3. "This means increased cases statewide and we're also seeing increased cases in our county. We know statewide three infants have died this year because of pertussis, a vaccine-preventable disease," said Thoman.
Here's a look at the spike trend in Santa Barbara County: In 2005, there were thirty four cases. In 2010, forty five cases and ten infant deaths. Jump ahead to 2013 where officials confirmed twenty one cases. So far, in the first six months of this year, county health officials have already logged twenty one cases.
Thoman said the best defenses include vaccinating pregnant women between twenty seven and thirty six weeks with a Tdap vaccine, and something called "cocooning," where all adults who come in contact with an infant or newborn, also receive the vaccination.
Children should receive their first DTaP vaccine at two months, but can be immunized as early as six weeks. Overall, children need a total of five doses of DTaP by the time they start kindergarten, or reach the age of six.
Adolescents between the ages of eleven and twelve should get a Tdap booster.
For more information, call (805) 681-5280 or visit www.sbcphd.org/dep.