Health experts eye newly reported cases of whooping cough in San Francisco

Health experts are once again eyeing the spread of Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in the Bay Area; this time in San Francisco, where more than a dozen cases have been reported since January, including at a Catholic high school in the city.

"People should not be panicking at all about this," said Dr. Monic Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF Medical Center. "The main thing is to control the outbreak, meaning that anyone who has these symptoms has to stay home, has to get the antibiotic."

Since January, The San Francisco Department of Public Health says there have been 13 cases in the city; most of them among high school students at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.

The symptom to be on the lookout for is the telltale dry cough.

"Young children can have a very whoop, kind of musical aspect to the cough," said Gandhi. "The vaccine can protect you from really severe disease, but it can’t protect you completely from getting it. Kind of like the COVID vaccine, you can still get COVID even though you’ve been COVID vaccinated, but it protects you from severe disease."

Gandhi says the vast majority of people in the Bay Area have already been vaccinated, and described the vaccine as, "really safe, [with] very few side effects. People do really well with these vaccines."


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"I’m really not that concerned that much," said Jie Yng, whose daughter attends Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory. "School handled very well. They informed me several times."

"We’re pretty much vaccinated, so what can you do? You have to be active," said another parent, Rod Bernardino.

San Francisco is not the only area in The Bay with cases. Since December, neighboring Marin County has reported around 100 cases of whooping cough. Many of the cases were tied to students at Tamalpais High in Mill Valley.  

For now, Gandhi says the only age group people should be truly concerned about is newborns.

"They don’t have the immunity when they’re firstborn, and they can get really sick from Pertussis," said Gandhi.

Gandhi says people with newborns in their household should make sure that they are completely separated from anyone else living under the same roof who has tested positive for whooping cough or is displaying symptoms.