North Texas experiencing worst outbreak of whooping cough in a decade

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on August 1, 2013 at 5:18 PM

DALLAS -- Julie Moon would do anything to protect her newborn son.

That includes getting a whooping cough shot during pregnancy, as the CDC is now recommending for every expectant mother.

"My husband and I both got it because we want to decrease the risk of passing it on to our child, which can be very serious," Moon said. "It can lead to pneumonia and potentially death. So we wanted to take that seriously."

It's especially wise, considering North Texas in the midst of a serious outbreak.

Tarrant County has already had 302 cases of pertussis this year, compared to 162 cases in 2012. Dallas County reports 114 cases so far in 2013, including the death of a three-week-old infant in June.

The numbers are the highest North Texas has seen in nearly a decade, prompting a health advisory to all Dallas County medical providers.

"We know that part of this is due to the limitations of the vaccine that is currently available," explained Dallas County Health and Human Services epidemiologist Dr. Wendy Chung.

The CDC predicts the protection provided from the pertussis vaccine may last a decade or less. Those in whom the vaccine is no longer effective can become infected and transmit the disease to others through respiratory droplets.

Pertussis, in its early stages, mimics the common cold. It is often not suspected or diagnosed until the more-severe symptoms appear. Symptoms can include fits of rapid, high-pitched coughs, vomiting, and exhaustion.

Antibiotics can shorten the amount of time a patient is contagious.

In most cases, children under one year old are most-severely affected. Infants can receive the first vaccination at two months of age, though it takes several doses to attain protection.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than half of infants younger than one year of age who get pertussis must be hospitalized.

Of those infants who are hospitalized with pertussis about:

  • 1-in-5 get pneumonia (lung infection)
  • 1-in-100 will have convulsions (violent, uncontrolled shaking)
  • Half will have apnea (slowed or stopped breathing)
  • 1-in-300 will have encephalopathy (disease of the brain)
  • 1-in-100 will die

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON PERTUSSIS FROM THE STATE HEALTH DEPT


"Medical City alone has seen seven cases of whooping cough here in July," said Medical City pediatrician Dr. Damien Mitchell.

That's why he's reminding children, adult caregivers, and expectant mothers to get vaccinated.

"The benefit of that is the immunity is actually passed on to baby before the baby is even born," Mitchell said, "and then obviously mom is vaccinated against the infection while she's caring for that young infant."

Her own vaccination gives Julie Moon one less thing to worry about when it comes to the health of her newborn baby boy.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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