California Pertussis Outbreak

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California Pertussis Outbreak

The outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough) in California continues to make news.  Department of Health officials are blaming this on a lack of adequate pertussis immunization among adults and are pushing for adult pertussis vaccinations. 

I have several responses

  1.  It is difficult to imaging how assymptomatic adults are spreading the pertussis organism to children, but if they are it points out the failure of pertussis immunizations to provide lasting immunity. 

  2. The outbreak appears to be greatest in Hispanic infants and children.  Although it is politically incorrect, it should be pointed out that many of these children are in the United States illegally and are living in poverty.  It seems much more likely that the outbreak is due to lack of strong immune systems in the infants and children rather than to a lack of recent pertussis immunizations in apparently healthy adults.

  3. Pertussis outbreaks occur relatively frequently despite high immunization rates. While immunization can at times be helpful in preventing disease, it should never be viewed as a substitute for developing habits of drinking pure water, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, and providing basic nutritional supports. 

 It was reported this month that less than 1 in 3 people over the age of 2 consume at least two fruit servings daily.  Less than 1 in 4 eat three or more servings of vegetables daily.  This becomes even more alarming when one considers that is reported that 1/4 of the vegetable servings eaten by U.S. children are French fries.  If we truly want to lessen the number of pertussis outbreaks public health officials need to concentrate less on increasing the adult immunization rate and more on ways to improve the diets of our nations children.  


Dale Peterson, M.D.