Pertussis, Or Whooping Cough, Cases In Texas Near 50-Year High

This image depicts a young boy who was receiving an injection in his right lateral thigh muscle. [CDC/ Amanda Mills]
The state of Texas is warning healthcare professionals and parents about an outbreak of pertussis.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has issued a Texas Health Alert, warning the rate of pertussis is on track to be the highest in 50 years.

Department Spokesman Chris Van Deusen says more than 1,900 cases have been reported across Texas this year.

"Pertussis can be very dangerous, it can be deadly for very young children, thinking of newborns and other infants. In fact, we've seen two deaths this year from pertussis, we saw six last year. And those were almost all children too young to be vaccinated."

The state health alert warns doctors and hospital workers to look for signs of pertussis, which spreads easily through the air.

Van Deusen says because it's so contagious, anyone who is likely to be around infants should be immunized.

"So whether that's parents, older siblings, extended family members, doctors and nurses too, if you're going to be around a newborn make sure that you're up to date on your vaccine. We recommend for pregnant women, get a dose of pertussis vaccine every pregnancy. That confers some immunity to the baby and then also obviously protects the mother so she doesn't get sick and pass it on to the child."

Pertussis often starts like a cold, but it's main symptom is a persistent severe cough that can last for several weeks.

Here in Harris County, 161 cases of pertussis have been reported. Tarrant County has the most, with 420 cases reported this year.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...