Experts Warn Public About Rise In Texas Whooping Cough Cases

Local health officials are warning the public to take seriously any extended coughing you think may be just the common cold. In Texas, cases of Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, are approaching numbers not seen in decades.

Experts say it looks and feels like a regular cold: runny nose, congestion and sneezing. But at some point Pertussis turns in to a cough that won’t go away. 

In 2010, there were more than 27,000 cases of it in the U.S.. Twenty-seven of those were fatal — most of them babies.

This is Anna Dragsbaek with the Immunization Partnership.

"Pertussis is on the rise in Texas. In several counties, they’re experiencing near epidemic rates. We’re seeing the highest rate of pertussis that we’ve seen in 50 years. And so it is a very serious comeback of a disease that was almost eradicated."

Most people know pertussis as whooping cough. Health experts say the best prevention is vaccination. Dragsbaek wants to get the information out particularly to the local low income Hispanic community.

"Seventy-five percent of cases do come from the Hispanic community in Houston, and so we’re very concerned to get the word out to the Hispanic population that it's important that the adults protect themselves to protect children."

She says researchers don’t really know why more cases of whooping cough are found in Hispanics . Some of the possibilities may be because low income Hispanics tend to have extended families living in the same household and they may also have less access to vaccinations.

Maria Trevino with HISD’s Parent Engagement Department and says she’ll definitely begin spreading the word.

"That it’s something very serious. That it’s something very serious and we need to take care of it. We need to take care of it, not to take it as, 'Oh, it’s just a cough.' No, we need to do something about it."

Health officials say since infants can’t be vaccinated, it’s extremely important that the parents are, so that the entire family can be protected.