County whooping cough cases top total for all of ‘09

The number of cases of whooping cough in San Diego County so far this year has surpassed the level for all of 2009, it was announced Wednesday.

So far this year, there have been 183 cases of whooping cough locally, compared to 143 last year, according to the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

Last month, the California Department of Public Health declared the disease, also known as pertussis, an epidemic in the state.

“We alerted the local healthcare community about the increased cases and are providing guidance about pertussis prevention, diagnosis and treatment,’' said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the county’s deputy public health officer.

“It is very important that both adolescents and adults — especially those who take care of or have children in the home — get their booster shot to help decrease the spread of this vaccine-preventable disease,’' he said.

The HHSA reported 13 new cases of whooping cough in San Diego County this week. All were youngsters under the age of 12.

Whooping cough is highly contagious, and infants and young children are particularly vulnerable. The disease usually starts with flu-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, sneezing, fever and a mild cough.

The symptoms may be mild and brief, or last up to two weeks, but are often followed by severe coughing fits that may be associated with vomiting,