Whooping Cough Outbreak Hitting Latinos the Hardest

A serious whooping cough outbreak is happening in the U.S., especially in California. Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes severe coughing spells and respiratory inflammation of the upper airways. It is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, sending bacteria airborne. Whooping cough can be tough to diagnose because early symptoms are mild and resemble a cold. In some people, this infection can lead to pneumonia and in severe cases, even death. While there has been a vaccine in the US since the 1970s, vaccines aren’t permanent.

One group of people that have been heavily affected by this outbreak is Latinos – and the reason is two-fold. First, immunization protocols in Latin American countries are very lax and many young adults and children that come to the United States do not have the proper immunization schedule, therefore, they have very little protection against infections like whooping cough.

Second, in many cities around the country, Latino families occupy very crowded living spaces – sometimes having 6, 7, or 8 people in a 2-bedroom apartment -- and this kind of living arrangement fosters the rapid spread of illness. Since whooping cough is a highly contagious disease, it makes sense that it is spreading like wildfire in states like California.

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