from the replace-cough-with-zombie dept.
CNN reports that the number of whooping cough cases in California has officially reached epidemic proportions with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone. And the number of actual cases may be even higher, because past studies have shown that for every case of whooping cough that is reported, there are 10 more that are not officially counted. The public health department in California is strongly urging people to make sure their vaccinations are up to date, especially if they're pregnant. State health officials are working closely with schools and local health departments to spread the word.
But there's a vaccine for whooping cough so why is there an epidemic? According to Dylan Matthews it's hard to blame any single cause for public health problems like the recent rise in whooping cough, but it's clear that anti-vaccine activists aren't helping. Researchers at Johns Hopkins, Emory, and the California Department of Public Health found that California communities with large numbers of parents claiming "nonmedical exemptions" from vaccines from their kids (that is, parents who don't vaccinate for religious, personal, or other reasons not backed by medical professionals) were 1.73 times more likely to see outbreaks of whooping cough; another study looking at Michigan found high-exemption areas were 2.7 times as likely to experience high levels of the disease. "Unlike some other vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles, neither vaccination nor illness from pertussis offers lifetime immunity," says Dr. Ron Chapman. "However, vaccination is still the best defense against this potentially fatal disease."