The California Department of Public Health issued a warning Monday, particularly to pregnant women, about the prevalence and danger of whooping cough, and the need to increase the vaccination rate against the disease.
Whooping cough, also called pertussis, can be deadly for infants and is responsible for one infant death already this year, according to Karen Smith, director of the state Public Health department.
Smith said, so far this year, there have been 126 infant hospitalizations due to whooping cough, along with the death of one baby -- and they're preventable, she said.
"Right now, it's estimated that fewer than half of all pregnant women in California are vaccinated against whooping cough," Smith said. "We need to increase that number to help improve the health of our children and of our communities."
Pregnant women need to receive the whooping cough vaccination in the last trimester of each pregnancy, Smith said, because the immunity decreases over time. Getting the vaccine is critical to stemming the spread of the illness, she said, which can be particularly dangerous for children under the age of one.