Rushing backward

California is being hit with a massive epidemic of whooping cough. Of whooping cough – one of those diseases for which there’s been an effective vaccine for more than 70 years.

California is being hit hard with a whooping cough epidemic, according to the state’s public health department, with 800 cases reported in the past two weeks alone.

The agency says that there were 3,458 whooping cough cases reported between January 1 and June 10, well ahead of the number of cases reported for all of 2013.

This is a problem of “epidemic proportions,” the department said. 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.

Nice job, anti-vaxxers.

California has historically had higher vaccination rates than other states, but a recent study found large clusters of parents who did not vaccinate their children close to areas with a large number of whooping cough cases during the 2010 California outbreak.

The current outbreak is too new for scientists to know if there is a similar pattern.

Whooping cough cases have spread rapidly in the United States this year, with a 24% increase nationally in the number of cases, compared to January through April of last year, according to the CDC.

Other states are reporting similar problems. The Mobile County Health Department in Alabama, for example, recently noted an “alarming” rise of cases locally, with 18 cases in May and June. That’s more than all the reported cases in Mobile for 2013, health officials say.

Herd immunity? What’s that?


  1. anbheal says

    Ya know.,…this is just so wrong in so many ways, and it’s going to get worse, as various state GOP platforms have taken up the anti-vax banner. I once knew a kid who got whooping cough…,.he was from Poland… was one of the most painful things I ever witnessed. Any parent who willfully does that to a child should be treated the same way the courts treat Christian Scientists who let their children die of appendicitis — videlicet, jail time.

    And my professional and educational background is in epidemiology — whooping cough was the number one cause of child mortality in America for over one hundred years (now guns are, woo-hoo!). And we eradicated it. We eliminated the biggest killer (and one of the most painful ones) of American children. What kind of shitheel thinks it was better back then???

  2. says

    I saw that it was number one, and bigger than polio & TB & other childhood infectious diseases combined – and then there was an effective vaccine – and now there’s UNREASONABLE VACCINE PARANOIA so it’s back. It’s so pathetic and terrible.

  3. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Do NOT think this is a largely right-wing idea, anbheal. It is most popular on the anti-chemical left. Vermont is FULL of antivaxxers, all very “progressive.”

  4. throwaway says

    Josh, Official SpokesGay, I think anbheal is referencing to the new Texas GOP platform, which included a very strong anti-vax sentiment. PZ blogged a bit about it.

    Pertinent platform statement from them:

    All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.

  5. carlie says

    The loss of herd immunity can kick you in the ass even if you’ve done everything you can. My husband got pertussis last year – even though he was vaccinated, it can apparently wear off as you age. Usually not a huge problem, unless there’s suddenly a surge of cases of it from assholes who don’t vaccinate. He was sick for months. Didn’t break any ribs, but the coughing did such a number on his muscles that it was almost as bad. We’re also in a weird transitional time now in that it’s not supposed to be around, so isn’t necessarily treated seriously enough. It took two visits to his doctor to get it properly diagnosed, and then when he ended up in urgent care later because he was sure he had broken a rib (it was that painful), they refused to believe that he had pertussis until they got his actual records.

  6. suttkus says

    Vaccine denial stupidity is one of those rare topics that the political left and right in the US can agree on. Yay, working together to roll back progress! But I’m sure they’ll back off, once a few hundred kids die.

    Shame they can’t do something sensible first, but democracy only works with an educated voting populace, and our voters are largely uneducated, anti-intellectual twits, so democracy is stumbling all over the place.

  7. PatrickG says

    @ Josh/suttkus:

    I think it’s worth examining the motivations of the two sides, however.

    Left-oriented paranoia against vaccinations center around the Unnatural Chemicals and Natural Goodness and so forth. Right-oriented paranoia — particularly in Texas! — centers around the fear that their daughters might be turned into Zombie Sluts by the HPV vaccine. Also, Obamacare (mumble mumble).

    Same end-result, of course, but very, very different starting points.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *