Cough it up

It starts like a cold but then doesn’t go away. In a couple of weeks, the dry cough becomes so severe that people sometimes vomit from it. And the struggle to breathe produces a unique “whoop” sound.

It’s called pertussis, better known as whooping cough, and it’s having a bang-up year in California, where reported cases have hit a number higher than public health officials have seen since 1955. There have been more than 4,000 cases confirmed this year, as opposed to fewer than 500 last year. Statewide, nine children have died of the disease.

Officials aren’t sure exactly what is behind the outbreak, although some suspect a rise in parents who opt out of vaccinating their children for pertussis. Dr. Glennah Trochet, Sacramento County’s top public health officer, told SN&R that a lack of immunity in older children and adults may also be part of the problem.

“We know now, and did not know 20 or 30 years ago, that the vaccine does not give lifelong immunity,” Trochet said. “It only lasts six to 10 years, and so some older children, teens and adults are no longer immune.”

That means that the “herd immunity,” which public health officials rely on to protect infants who have not yet been immunized as well as vulnerable people with weak immune systems, isn’t effective.

Fortunately, there is now a vaccine that can be used with older children, teens and adults. The California Department of Health recommendation, which Trochet endorses, is to vaccinate anyone ages 7 or older who is not fully immunized (especially adults over 64); women of child-bearing age who plan on becoming pregnant, are pregnant or who have just delivered a child; and anyone who has contact with pregnant women or infants.

“All of the children who have died have been infants under 6 months of age,” said Trochet. “Most babies aren’t fully protected until the third vaccination in the series. That means that babies under 6 months are at the greatest risk for infection.”

Trochet also recommends that people who have cold symptoms and develop a dry cough seek treatment. “Late treatment will keep them from infecting others, but it won’t help ease their coughs much,” she says. “Early treatment will ease the coughing spells.” (Kel Munger)

County cannabis crackdown

The days might be numbered for Sacramento County’s medical-cannabis dispensaries.

This past Tuesday, the board of supervisors denied the appeals of six medical-marijuana clubs, which had received cease-and-desist notices from code enforcement earlier in the year.

Now, it looks like the county will attempt to shut down dispensaries one by one.

No one knows for sure, but at least two dozen medical-marijuana clubs currently operate in Sac County. The city of Sacramento hopes to complete its medical-cannabis ordinance this year, but county officials have yet to begin work on theirs—if at all.

Four of the six clubs that face closure—including City of Trees Compassionate Care, One Solution, Nature’s Own Healing Center and The Green Temple—are members of the Sacramento County Patients & Collectives coalition, which is fighting the county’s effort to ban dispensaries. Find out more about their plight at (Nick Miller)