Whooping Cough Led to Infant Deaths in California

Paula Duffy's picture

Whooping cough is on the rise in the country and at least in California, has become a problem for doctors as well as the public at large. Treating the symptoms as if it were a something less serious led to eight infant deaths.

A review of those deaths found that misdiagnosis led to all eight infants dying unnecessarily. The California Department of Public Health, has instructed medical professionals in the state to stay aware, that what might be taken as innocuous and typical symptoms of a cold or slight congestion, can be whooping cough. It is now recommended that as a precaution, lab tests should be performed to rule out the disease in children under the age of six months.

Infants in that age range are at high risk for complications because of weak immune systems and uncompleted vaccination shots. In the case of the California infant deaths, all were under the age of three months and had been to a medical professional more than once. Early detection and hospitalization would have gone a long way to preventing the dire consequences.

California public health officials warn doctors about early diagnosis of whooping cough.

Whooping cough is difficult to diagnose in adults as well as children and Dr. Jonathan Fielding, LA County's director of the Department of Public Health is concerned that the disease is becoming an increasing problem, particularly for schools. Fielding was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times and said: "There is going to be increased opportunity for infection."

The Times reported that more than 3,600 cases of whooping cough have been reported in California so far this calendar year, a frightening increase of 700%. It has now set off a new dilemma for parents who are loathe to vaccinate their children, because the outbreak might result in schools excluding children who are not vaccinated.

The cases have increased among the adult population because they have outlived the effectiveness of their childhood vaccinations. The California health officials now recommend the vaccine for those usually on the list of flu shots: the elderly, pregnant women and anyone who comes in contact with infants. Because the disease is generally spread among family members, those booster shots can help prevent a crisis for a young child.

The Mayo Clinic website has complete information about symptoms, complications and treatment for whooping cough. The site as well as the California Public Health officials seem to agree that infants require hospitalization for the disease to quickly prevent the complications that lead to death.

Mayo Clinic website, can be found here.

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