Texas Health Department issues a pertussis health advisory
Not only are Texas health officials battling the worst West Nile virus outbreak in years, but they are also dealing with an increase in pertussis, or whooping cough cases including the most fatalities seen in the state in seven years.
According to a Texas Department of State Health Services press release, there have been six deaths and more than 1,000 confirmed cases of pertussis in Texas so far this year.
The six deaths so far this year are the most for a single year since 2005. There were 961 total Texas cases of pertussis last year, down from a peak of 3,358 in 2009.
The health advisory is to urge people to get vaccinated against the disease.
Five of the deaths were among infants under two months old, the age at which the first pertussis vaccination is recommended. This underscores how important it is for parents and others around newborns to make sure they have received the recommended doses of vaccine. The sixth death was of an unvaccinated older child with underlying medical conditions.
Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium, Bordetella pertussis. This vaccine-preventable disease is spread through direct contact with respiratory discharges via the airborne route.
Pertussis goes through a series of stages in the infected person; initially a irritating cough followed by repeated, violent coughing. The disease gets its nickname by coughing without inhaling air giving the characteristic high-pitched whoop. Certain populations may not have the typical whoop like infants and adults.
It is highly communicable, especially in very early stages and the beginning of coughing episodes, for approximately the first 2 weeks. Then the communicability gradually decreases and at 3 weeks it is negligible, though the cough my last for months.
Those that are not immunized are susceptible to this disease. Young infants and school aged children (who are frequently the source ofinfection for younger siblings) are at greatest risk.