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Whooping Cough Epidemic Hits California

6 Infant Deaths in California; South Carolina Also Sees Cases Rise

Vaccine Refusal Driving Whooping Cough Epidemic?

There's indirect evidence that people who refuse to vaccinate their children may be playing a role in the whooping cough epidemic, suggested Gilberto Chavez, MD, chief of the California Department of Health's infectious disease center.

Chavez noted that most whooping cough cases tend to occur in areas where the most parents exempt their kids from routine vaccination -- a choice that California state law permits the parents of school children.

"We have noticed that to some degree [the epidemic pattern] matches counties where there is a higher percent of kids not immunized because of personal-belief exemptions [to school-required vaccination]," he said at the news conference.

For example, Marin County north of San Francisco has a relatively high rate of vaccine refusal. Marin County has the highest number of whooping cough cases, Chavez said.

That fits with a 2008 study that matched whooping cough outbreaks in Michigan with geographic pockets of families that exempted their children from school immunization requirements.

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