(HealthDay News) – In the 2010 California pertussis epidemic, all deaths and most hospitalizations occurred in infants <3 months of age, according to research published online July 19 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Kathleen Winter, MPH, from the California Department of Public Health in Richmond, and colleagues evaluated clinical and demographic information for all pertussis cases reported to the department from January 1–December 31, 2010.

The researchers found that the highest disease rates were seen for Hispanic infants <6 months. Most hospitalizations and all deaths occurred in infants <3 months. Nine percent of pediatric cases aged 6 months–18 years were completely unvaccinated against pertussis, but most pediatric cases were vaccinated according to national recommendations. Fully-vaccinated preadolescents, particularly 10-year-olds, experienced high disease rates. Expanded recommendations for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccinations; public and provider education; distribution of free vaccine for contacts of infants and postpartum women; and clinical guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of pertussis in young infants were suggested as potential mitigation strategies.

“In the absence of better vaccines, it is imperative that strategies to protect young infants directly, such as maternal vaccination, be evaluated for effectiveness,” write the authors. “In addition, it is critical that providers continue to be vigilant and promptly diagnose and treat young infants with pertussis.”

One author disclosed financial ties to Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline.

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