The state of Texas is warning about an increase in whooping cough, or pertussis. Six deaths are reported so far this year, the most since 2005.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says as of August 31st, Texas reported the six deaths and more than 1,000 cases of pertussis – double the number of cases at this time last year. Five of the deaths were infants under two months old. Babies don’t get their first dose of pertussis vaccine until two months.
Dr. Jane Seward, with the Centers for Disease Control says whooping cough is a bacterial illness that is spread by coughing or sneezing. She says adults and older siblings are the most likely transmitters of the illness to infants.
“And so the best way to protect the infants is to firstly vaccinate them on time, but also to vaccinate people in their family and their caregivers, and that includes grandparents,” said Seward.
Dr. Seward says sometimes adults can have pertussis or whooping cough and not realize it.
“Because they’ve had vaccines in the past, they can have some partial immunity and they don’t get a classic case, as in whooping – which you typically see in children with whooping cough,” Seward said. “They may just have a very bad cough for many, many weeks.”
The Centers for Disease Control also notes that while infants are the most at risk from whooping cough, older children – ages 10-14 – are being diagnosed in larger and larger numbers. Officials say that trend is showing up in Texas, and health officials are recommending a pertussis booster shot for kids when they’re 11 or 12.
Symptoms include a runny nose, fever and a “whooping” sound when the patient inhales after rapid coughing spells.
Related Link: cdc.gov/pertussis/vaccines.html