Marin Whooping Cough Spike Alarms Health Officials

Marin County experienced the state's second highest rate of an illness that affected nearly twice as many Californians in 2013 as it did the previous year.

Marin County experienced California's second-highest rate of whooping cough in 2013, as the state reported a nearly two-fold increase in the disease over the previous year, the Marin Independent Journal reports.

The county reported 173 cases in 2013 for a rate of 68 per 100,000 according to the report. Nevada County reported the state's highest rate of the contagious respiratory illness.

Statewide, the 1,904 reported whooping cough cases in 2013 was nearly double the 1,023 cases reported in 2012.

"It varies from year to year," Marin County public health officer Dr. Matt Willis told the IJ.

"We don't always know what determines the extent of a given outbreak, but we do know what we can do to prevent it."  

Willis attributes the outbreak to the reluctance of Marin County parents to vaccinate their children; a decision he believes imperils public safety.

Symptoms of whooping cough include severe flu-like symptoms and violent coughing, according to the Center for Disease Control, which says the illness is especially dangerous for young children.

The illness caused 255 deaths in the United States from 2000 to 2012.

Marin County's status among the state's leaders in this dubious category isn't an isolated case according to a Wall Street Journal report that blames the unwilling of parents to vaccinate their children for a 2011 outbreak.

About 15 percent of the state's reported cases of whooping cough were reported that year in Marin County, which accounts for 0.67 of the state's population.

And that's despite the Marin's status as one of the nation's wealthiest counties.

Approximately 7 percent of Marin County children are unvaccinated, the report said, noting that parents are signing waivers exempting them from vaccines.

"Vaccination can help prevent the spread of pertussis," Willis told the IJ.

"We do have a lot of parents in Marin County who are hesitant about vaccines and we do know that we can protect ourselves by making sure every child is vaccinated."


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