A new report by the California Department of Health confirms what anecdotal evidence suggested: Hispanics have been the hardest hit in the state’s largest whooping cough epidemic in decades.
The department said 17.5 out of every 100,000 persons diagnosed with pertussis, or whooping cough, was Hispanic. The makeup for whites was 14.5 of every 100,000 persons, the report says. About 77 percent of the hospitalized infants, or 162 of babies younger than six months old, were Hispanic.
The whooping cough outbreak, which surpassed the state’s last large epidemic in 1950, has sickened 6,631 people in California and killed 10 infants, nine of them Hispanic. It is the largest outbreak since 1947.
Experts say Hispanics are at high risk of whooping cough because they are close-knit, live in close quarters, and tend to visit family members more often. A vaccination can prevent whooping cough.