SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- The number of whooping cough cases is up in California again and state health officials say they expect them to keep rising.
The California Department of Public Health said there were 2,649 cases of pertussis from Jan. 1 to May 27 _ that's more cases being reported in the first five months of the year than all of 2013.
More than 800 cases were reported in April alone, the highest monthly count since 2010, when a whooping cough epidemic struck 9,159 people and killed 10 infants in the state.
Whooping cough begins with cold-like symptoms and can progress to severe coughing fits that leave people gasping for breath. The illness tends to peaks every three to five years.
The San Jose Mercury News reports (http://bit.ly/1m49jXr ) there are several reasons behind the trend. Health officials point to the public not sufficiently seeking out immunizations, waning immunity and more aggressive detection of the persistent and sometimes deadly cough.
They also note that infants too young to be fully immunized remain most vulnerable to severe and fatal cases of pertussis. Sixty-six of the hospitalized cases to date this year have been in children 4 months old or younger. Two infants have died so far, one in Riverside County and the other in Placer County.