After helping to get nearly 1,000 local residents prepared for the flu season, San Benito County Public Health Services is turning some of its attention toward another nemesis: Whooping cough.
Public health officials are expecting a heavy whooping cough season this year. Unlike the annual influenza seasons each winter, more serious whooping cough seasons show up every four or five years, said Dr. Gail Newell, public health officer for San Benito County.
“That’s pertussis,” Newell said. “It’s very serious for small children in particular. They’re predicting that our junior high age population might be most susceptible this time around.”
Pertussis, a highly contagious respiratory disease, is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing often making it hard to breathe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health experts in determining the age population most at risk will examine past whooping cough seasons and waning immunities, Newell said. If a portion of the population gets whooping cough as babies or young children, their immunities to the disease will wane over time, she explained.
“Older people may have been exposed to past cycles of it and were already infected or adequately immunized,” she said.
Newell, meanwhile, was pleased with turnout for the annual influenza clinic held last week at the Veterans Memorial Building. Public health vaccinated 978 residents at the clinic. That surpassed expectations so much that the agency even had to turn away a couple of families at the very end because it ran out of vaccines.
They, like other local families, can still get a flu vaccine at public health offices if people are coming in for other immunizations, while the shots are widely available through pharmacies. Insurance covers them, or they are otherwise $5, Newell said.
Public Health Information Officer Sam Perez attributed the high turnout at this year’s clinic to extended hours that lasted until 8 p.m. In the past, the clinics closed at 6:30 p.m., she said.
“This allows for people that are commuters to get back in, maybe take care of business at home, and then come in later on,” Perez said.
Perez went on: “Our health officer, based on information we received last year, she said, why don’t we just keep it open for those later commuters?”
The turnout also came even with a clinic earlier in the flu season before much of the media hype builds up. Public health receives its vaccines from the state.
Perez mentioned how people tend to like the speed of the process at the public health clinics as well.
“The throughput time is less than four minutes,” she said, referring to the average time for residents to get in and out of the clinic. “Some people say it takes longer to get a parking spot than a flu shot.”
The best way to prevent pertussis (whooping cough) is to get the vaccine. There are vaccines for babies, children, preteens, teens, and adults. DTaP is the childhood vaccine, and Tdap is the pertussis booster vaccine for preteens, teens, and adults. Talk to your healthcare professional about getting the vaccine against pertussis and read more about pertussis prevention.