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With the possibility of seeing the largest spike in the amount of Texas whooping cough cases in half a century, medical officials are urging parents to be preventative and get vaccinated, as this disease is highly contagious.
On Sept. 3, the Texas Department of State Health Services issued a ‘health alert’ addressing the spike, advising doctors on how to diagnose and treat the disease.
Whooping cough — known medically as pertussis, named after the bacterium Bordetella pertussis — is a bacterial disease that most commonly affects children, usually infants less than six months old, and is characterized by violent, convulsive coughs that are usually followed by a ‘whooping’ sound as the person inhales.
This sound, as a result of the coughing, essentially gave pertussis its more commonly known slang name, “whooping cough.”
The disease is very common in infants whose immune systems remain weak as they develop during their first few months of life. For this reason, all parents with newborns, or anyone frequently in contact with a newborn, are encouraged to get vaccinated, as this largely reduces the chance of spreading it to your child, which could be done simply while holding the infant.
The recommended vaccine is highly effective and has lowered the deaths caused by pertussis to less than 30 per year.
Before the pertussis vaccine, introduced in 1949, was administered, whooping cough resulted in 5,000-10,000 deaths each year in the U.S., according to www.kidshealth.org.
Although there have been no confirmed cases in Lamar County this year, nearly one quarter of the Texas cases have been reported in Tarrant County, less than 150 miles southwest of us.
“We are currently working a possible case right now, but it has not been confirmed,” registered nurse, Carol Hill, said.
Hill, who works at the Lamar County Health Department, said that since the bacterial disease is often passed from parent to child — especially newborns — they really push for parents to get vaccinated. Children do not get their first cycle of immunizations until they are two months old, she said, so during that time the child is very vulnerable.
“The vaccine for adults is called the Tdap, and the child vaccine is referred to as DTaP,” Hill said. “We administer both of these immunizations at the health department. It is very hard to treat pertussis once you are infected, so the vaccines are highly recommended.”
The Lamar County Health Department is located at 4th and Sherman.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, getting vaccinated with Tdap is especially important for families with and caregivers of new infants.
Despite how common the disease is in young children, it is recommended that people of all ages make sure that your immunizations are up to date and current. Pertussis is very contagious and can be spread to any age group.
By Josh Allen, eParisExtra