ABILENE, Texas - Whooping cough—or Pertussis--has already claimed the lives of two Texas infants this year.
A health alert has been issued for the state and more than 2,000 cases have been reported so far. According to lab results from Hendrick Medical Center for the Big Country, 19 cases have been confirmed this year and seven of those cases were confirmed since July.
State health officials predict the state is on track for more cases of the cough than any year since the 1950s. The bacteria can spread from person-to-person and can affect people of any age.
Health officials say vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from the bacteria. People who spend time around infants especially need to get vaccinated—as early as two weeks before welcoming an infant into their home.
"A young infant is at more risk of contracting the disease from mom, dad, other siblings, aunts, or uncles, that come in contact with them," BJ Stanke, a registered nurse at HMC, said.
According to the CDC, the vaccine makes a big difference. It became widely available in the 1940s and, during that time, about 200,000 children became infected with the cough each year and about 9,000 died as a result. As of now, about 10-25,000 children become infected each year and 10 to 20 die annually.
For children, the CDC recommends vaccinations should be given at two, four and six months of age; again from 15 to 18 months of age; again from four to six years of age with a booster in the pre-teen years.
For adults, "they recommend that instead of getting the tetanus shot, you get the T-dap which has the Pertussis," Stanke said.
She said that shot should hold an adult over for about 10 years.
For additional protection, make sure to wash your hands regularly and keep your workspace clean.
Warning signs of the cough typically begin with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough or fever. Within one to two weeks, severe coughing could begin and continue for several weeks. Infants can suffer from apnea (i.e. a pause in their breathing pattern). The cough is treated with antibiotics and must be treated as soon as it is noticed and diagnosed.