SAN DIEGO–In San Diego County, three new cases of whooping cough were reported this week where other children may have been exposed to the highly contagious disease. The total number of pertussis, or whooping cough, cases reported so far this year is 405. In 2010, a record 1,144 cases were reported in San Diego County, including two infant deaths. See second page for details about the new cases. “Symptoms of pertussis may not occur until weeks after the potential exposure, which is why parents need to be alerted to cases at their children’s schools,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “The single most important way to prevent the illness is to obtain the pertussis vaccine. Vaccines are not always 100 percent effective but they are the best defense against whooping cough.” Parents can get the vaccine series and the Tdap booster shot for their children through their primary care physicians. Students who are not covered by a medical insurance plan can obtain the shot from a local retail pharmacy for a fee, or from a County Public Health center. A typical case of pertussis starts with a cough and runny nose for one to two weeks, followed by weeks to months of rapid coughing fits that sometimes end with a whooping sound. Fever, if present, is usually mild. The disease is treatable with antibiotics. For more information about whooping cough and ongoing vaccination clinics, call the HHSA Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966 , or visit www.sdiz.org.