Pertussis outbreak hits Tulare County

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tulare County is dealing with a pertussis outbreak. It's a highly contagious disease but doctors say that's not the only reason more people are getting sick.

In Dr. Alice Gu's office, prevention is key, "Immunizations, is the best way to prevent."

Immunization starts early, especially when it comes to pertussis, the bacterial disease most people call whooping cough.

Dr. Gu hasn't treated any cases this year but other doctors in Tulare County have. In fact, since April, 63 cases have been reported. It doesn't sound like much but that's nearly double the total amount of cases from last year.

Tulare County Public Health Officer, Karen Haught said, "Pertussis has cycles and it tends to come around every 4 to 5 years."

Last year, there was a statewide epidemic, the worst in decades. There were more than 11,000 cases and 3 deaths. This year, 2,552, along with 1 death have been reported so far. Doctors say the numbers are on the rise for a few reasons; increased awareness, better diagnostic techniques and the vaccine. The vaccine's ingredients changed and some say it's less effective.

"There's a question as to whether it's slightly less immunogenic or it causes less of an immune response," Haught said.

Dr. Gu says the vaccine has been working for her patients. Even though, it is being questioned, she says, it's still the best way to prevent infection.

The county health department offers the vaccine for little or no cost to people who can't afford it.

Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.