Health officials diagnosed 40 cases of whooping cough in the Santa Clarita Valley last week, and are expecting more for this week, according to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital officials.
The cases have been especially prevalent in younger patients, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school students.
“I spoke to (Public Health) and I asked them, ‘How many cases … last week?’ and they told me, ‘40,’” said Dr. Morris Yen, a pediatrician at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. “And I asked if there was an outbreak everywhere and they said, ‘No, just Santa Clarita.’”
The term “outbreak” is used, according to Yen, when there’s a certain number of cases in a small area.
“Our office is very concerned about this issue, and we will be working with the Department of Public Health to determine the status of the situation and what is being done to address it,” said Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the SCV.
Local school officials have confirmed cases in recent weeks, and have made parents aware that the schools are following protocol and ensuring the safety of students.
“Whooping cough has been on the rise around the country,” said Danielle Ewing, a Newhall School District nurse, last week. “The best prevention is getting vaccinated, washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick.”
“This is the highest we’ve had in a decade, so it’s not common,” said Yen. “Every decade there is an outbreak, but this year is our outbreak for the decade.”
Yen added that he knows the cases were present in kids with vaccinations, but he does think it could possibly be a stronger strain of whooping cough this year.
“It’s a stronger strain, so we’re just seeing more cases this year,” said Yen.
The pediatrician advised parents to ensure their children are up to date on their vaccinations.
“The first thing to know is that even if you’re fully immunized, you may have 90%-95% immunity, but it’s not perfect,” said Yen in a video posted to Henry Mayo’s official Facebook page Wednesday. “The more important thing is that if you have all the vaccinations, your illness will be a lot less severe and the duration will be a lot less.”
Yen said that in the 1940s, the United States had hundreds of thousands of cases of whooping cough. That same decade the vaccine came out, and by the 1970s and 1980s, those numbers had dropped to the thousands.
“We are seeing it rise a little bit, but because of the vaccination, whooping cough drastically went down,” said Yen. “The vaccine has been around … so time has proven that it’s very safe, as well.”
Plus, if the people surrounding someone are well vaccinated, the illness won’t spread as easily, especially to young children, pregnant women and the elderly, he said.
“Just be aware of it and if you know that you’ve had a possible exposure I would recommend talking to your pediatrician,” said Yen. “It’s the younger babies we worry about the most, less than six months, and I would definitely recommend getting their vaccinations on time to make sure they’re well protected.”
Yen said that he would be meeting with county officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health next week to learn more.
For more information about whooping cough in Santa Clarita, Yen’s informational video can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/HenryMayoHospital/videos/505390890258962/.
For more information about how to protect yourself and your family, visit the department of public health’s website at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/VPD_pertussis.htm.