Call To Immunize

Texans are seeing a wave of whooping cough cases spread across the state. While infants and children are typically the most vulnerable to this contagious disease, adolescents and adults are encouraged to be vaccinated to prevent the spread. Pat Hernandez has more.

(sound of baby with pertussis)

That's the sound of pertussis or whooping cough. California Health officials are dealing with an outbreak, following the death of a ninth baby. All nine infants were under 3 months of age. Texas has the second highest number of whooping cough cases after California. Last year, it recorded over 33-hundred cases and three deaths.

"Whooping cough is a bacterial respiratory infection that exists in all communities."

Dr Susan Cooley King is a nurse practioner and vice president for clinical services for RediClinic. She says for a variety of reasons, pertussis is back in many communities across the countries.

"In the past, you know there's been a misconception among adult parents thinking, oh this is a childhood disease, it doesn't really affect me. If my child is immunized, then everybody including my child is safe. And it turns out that that's not so."

Dr. King says since the illness starts like a common cold with symptoms including sniffles, healthcare professionals find themselves in a catch-22 during diagnosis.

"The clinical description is a cough that's lasted for two weeks or more, and the cough is more pronounced on an in breath, which makes young children more prone to suffocating."

Coughing can be so severe that it is hard for babies to eat drink or even breathe. More than half of babies with reported cases of pertussis must be hospitalized. Dr King says since it is a virus, pertussis is treatable if you catch it early, and is preventable with immunization.

"Parents, because they were immunized so long ago, their immunity is waning, so their immunity is decreasing. So now the CDC is recommending that all teenagers and parents of young children are immunized."

 She says once you're aware that pertussis is not just something that afflicts the young,  then you're likely to get immunized.

"There's a new vaccination for adolescents and adults, and that's called the T-dap. Big T, little D, little A, P, and that has tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in it. And that is recommended for adolescents starting at age eleven. It's a highly contagious infectious disease."

Dr. King says the key to preventing an outbreak of whooping cough is awareness.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/pertussis/.

Bio photo of Pat Hernandez

Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...