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Whooping cough surged in 2013

Study shows increase, but not as bad as 2010 spike

California saw a spike in the number of reported cases of whooping cough last year, and Santa Clara County was hacking away with the rest of the state.

However, the surge in incidents of the disease -- also known as pertussis -- was not as bad as the massive uptick the state and county saw in 2010, according to a local health official.

In 2010, there were 9,120 cases of pertussis reported in California, a September 2013 article published in the journal Pediatrics reported -- which was more than any year since 1947.

In 2010, the county also saw a large number of reported cases of whooping cough -- 455, according to Amy Cornell, public information officer for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

That was much higher than prior years, as well as the years that followed, Cornell said. In 2011, there were 204 cases reported -- 143 of them in the first quarter of the year. In 2012, the incidence plummeted, to only 46 reported cases.

In 2013, 241 cases were reported -- the vast majority of them coming in the second and third quarters of the year. Palo Alto and San Jose got hit hardest, with 48 and 115 cases, respectively. Mountain View saw only 6 reported cases of whooping cough.

Cornell said she was not aware of any hard evidence pointing to a cause for the uptick. However, the article in Pediatrics, titled "Nonmedical Vaccine Exemptions and Pertussis in California", 2010, identified a lack of immunization as one of the causes of the 2010 surge. The study found that prevalence of whooping cough was much higher in communities where large numbers of parents chose not to vaccinate their children.

The county public health spokeswoman said she could not draw a link between dropping vaccination rates and a rise in whooping cough. In fact, she noted, "pertussis is cyclical and it does peak every two to five years."

Regardless, Cornell added, vaccination is the best defense the community has against the disease, which can be especially dangerous for the very young and the very old. "I think that it's very important that people continue to get vaccinated," she said.

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