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Whooping cough: 2014 epidemic has struck more than 5,000

Dr. Daniel Kahn holds the Tdap vaccine, which he administers to pregnant women in their third trimester.
Rebecca Plevin/KPCC
The Tdap vaccine.

There were 835 new cases of whooping cough reported in California in the two weeks between June 24-July 8, bringing the yearly total to nearly 5,400, according to the state public health department.

As the epidemicrolls on, officials at the California Department of Public Health continue to be most worried about babies, who can’t get their first vaccination until six or eight weeks of age. They’re not considered fully protected until they’ve received at least three doses of the vaccine, at about six months old.

So far this year, 97 infants younger than four months have been hospitalized due to whooping cough. Three babies have died of the disease.

As a result, health officials are urging pregnant women to get the Tdap vaccinationduring their third trimester. Tdap protects against tetanus, diptheria and whooping cough, also known as pertussis. This allows moms to transfer antibodies to their infants.

But that recommendation has been slow to sink in:  of the cases involving infants in which vaccination status is known, only a handful of moms got the vaccine during pregnancy.