Whooping Cough Cases Climb in Texas

Tarrant County has seen the most cases of any county in the state

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Infants are often hospitalized by whooping cough and can even end up in the ICU. While that hasn't happened at Cook Children's Medical Center this year, they have seen a rise in pertussis cases just like the rest of the state. (Published Wednesday, Sep 4, 2013)

    Texas health officials say the number of people sick with whooping cough statewide is on track to reach the highest level in more than 50 years.

    "This is extremely concerning. If cases continue to be diagnosed at the current rate, we will see the most Texas cases since the 1950s," said Dr. Lisa Cornelius, DSHS infectious diseases medical officer. "Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies, so people should take it seriously."

    Whooping Cough Cases Climb in Texas

    [DFW] Whooping Cough Cases Climb in Texas
    The Department of State Health Services reports nearly 2,000 cases of whooping cough so far this year. Tarrant County leads the state with 22 percent of the cases. (Published Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013)

    The Texas Department of State Health Services on Tuesday urged people to make sure they are vaccinated against the highly contagious disease pertussis that causes a severe cough.

    There have been almost 2,000 cases reported so far this year, with the annual total likely to surpass the recent high of 3,358 cases in 2009. Two infants have died from whooping cough this year. Both were too young to be vaccinated.

    Tarrant County Leads State in Pertussis Cases

    [DFW] Tarrant County Leads State in Pertussis Cases
    The Department of State Health Services reports nearly 2,000 cases of whooping cough so far this year. Tarrant County leads the state with 22 percent of the cases. (Published Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013)

    Tarrant County has seen the most cases of any county in the state, 433 or 22 percent. Of those cases, 38 patients have had to be hospitalized according to Russell Jones, Tarrant County Public Health's Chief Epidemiologist. Of those who have had to be hospitalized, 32 have been 12 months years of age or younger and 27 of those cases were infants younger than three months.

    Jones says part of the reason for this cyclical spike in pertussis numbers is that the vaccine's effectiveness often wears off by the time a child enters the 7th grade, or right before they are due to get a booster shot.

    "By the time they hit 8- or 9-years-old that particular vaccine is waning in its effectiveness," Jones said. "So, the time 8- to 11-year-olds are getting pertussis--and this year they're getting it quite a lot and that's what's driving this particular increase in numbers."

    Whooping cough spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. While infants are most at risk, people of all ages can get whooping cough.

    The Texas Department of State Health released this information today:

    Pertussis Prompts Texas Health Alert

    The Texas Department of State Health Services is urging people to make sure they're vaccinated against pertussis after projections show the number of people sick with the deadly disease this year is on track to reach the highest level in more than 50 years.

    "This is extremely concerning. If cases continue to be diagnosed at the current rate, we will see the most Texas cases since the 1950s," said Dr. Lisa Cornelius, DSHS infectious diseases medical officer. "Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies, so people should take it seriously."

    DSHS issued a health alert today advising doctors on diagnosing and treating pertussis. The state health department also strongly encourages people to make sure their children's and their own vaccinations are up to date. While infants remain the most at risk, people of all ages can still get pertussis.

    DSHS has reported nearly 2,000 pertussis cases so far this year, and the annual total likely will surpass the recent high of 3,358 cases in 2009. There have also been two pertussis-related deaths in Texas this year, both of infants too young to be vaccinated.

    To better protect babies, DSHS recommends pregnant women get a dose of pertussis vaccine during every pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This helps protect the baby before he or she can start the vaccination series at 2 months old and helps keep the mother from getting sick and infecting the baby. Fathers, siblings, extended family members, medical providers and others who will be around newborns should also be vaccinated. Many babies get whooping cough from adults or older brothers or sisters who don't even know they have the disease. While symptoms are usually milder in teens and adults, pertussis can be life threatening for babies because of the risk of apnea, an interruption in breathing.

    Pertussis is a bacterial infection that often starts with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough. After a week or two, severe coughing can begin and last for several weeks. Coughing fits may be followed by vomiting or a "whooping" sound, the reason the disease is also called "whooping cough." Pertussis spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. People with pertussis are most contagious while they have cold-like symptoms and during the first two weeks after coughing starts.

    Anyone with an unexplained, prolonged cough or who has had close contact with a person with pertussis should contact their health care provider. Early diagnosis and treatment may reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the contagious period. Doctors who suspect a pertussis infection are required to report it to their local health department within one working day. Patients who have pertussis should not go back to work or school until they've completed five days of antibiotic treatment.

    Parents are urged to check their children's shot records to be sure they are completely vaccinated against pertussis and should keep infants, especially those less than 6 months old, away from people with a cough. Adults should talk to their medical provider about receiving a booster dose of the Tdap vaccine.

    More: Texas Department of State Health Services - Pertussis Health Alert

    NBC 5's Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.