We have been following the serious outbreak of the flea-borne disease typhus in the Los Angeles area.

The number of infected people in LA is now 107.  But now, area public health officials are worrying about a whopping cough (a.k.a. pertussis) outbreak.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is reporting an increase in clusters of pertussis cases among 11 to 18-year olds across the county.

Health officials note that the overall number of pertussis cases has not yet increased in LA County compared to the prior five years, the number of reported clusters of pertussis cases has risen in 11 to 18-year-olds who share classrooms, carpools/transportation, or extracurricular activities.

Currently, there are three reported clusters in different areas of LA County with a median of 17 cases per cluster.

The county Department of Health has issued a health alert to health care providers about the outbreak in whooping cough. The public health agency indicated there are three clusters in different areas of the county, but has not publicly revealed all the cluster locations.

One location, however, has been the focus of media attention.

Harvard-Westlake, which has campuses in Studio City and Beverly Crest, was hit particularly hard, with 30 students coming down with whooping cough since November, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Of about 1,600 students attend Harvard-Westlake, where tuition is close to $40,000 a year, only 18 opted out of vaccinations for medical reasons. None of the 30 students who contracted whooping cough were not vaccinated. [emphasis added]

School officials say they have done all they can to control the outbreak, including sending students home, sanitizing classrooms, and implementing a new protocol that requires students who stay home sick must be tested at a hospital for whooping cough before they can return to class.

The most troubling aspect of the report is that the spread of this illness is not a consequence of anti-vaccination preferences, as had been the case with recent measles outbreaks near Portland. All the infected schoolchildren were vaccinated.

Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. The disease is known for uncontrollable, violent coughing. After coughing fits, someone with pertussis often needs to take deep breaths, which result in a “whooping” sound.

Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.

Health critical care specialists call it a nasty sticky bug.

“When the bacteria infects us, it sticks to the little hairs in our trachea. It’s a very persistent bug,” said Dr. Shant Shirvanian with Adventist Health.

….But the best way to protect against pertussis is with the diphtheria tetanus pertussis immunization or DTaP. The vaccination is given in infancy followed by a booster dose at age 11 or 12. But the shot doesn’t give complete immunity.

“Just because you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you won’t get whooping cough but it does decrease the chance of you getting severely ill from it.” Shirvanian said.

I sure hope that the health experts determine why exactly these outbreaks are occurring, particularly in reportedly vaccinated people.