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September 4, 2013

Texas issues health alert for whooping cough outbreak

Nearly 2,000 cases reported this year, with two deaths

AUSTIN – With the number of cases of whooping cough in Texas on pace to hit a high not seen since the 1950s, a public health alert has now been issued.

Already this year, said Chris Van Deusen, a press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been nearly 2,000 cases of whooping cough or pertussis, an ailment that is cyclical in nature.

“Our recent peak was in 2009, where we saw more than 3,000 cases,” he said, “but really depending on what we see for the rest of the year here, we may surpass that.”

Since pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious health complications, Van Deusen said, Texans should make sure their children’s and their own vaccinations are up to date.

Those who work with or around children also are being urged to get vaccinations, said Van Deusen, since infants aren’t given a shot right away - and once the series of shots begins, it takes a while to build immunity to whooping cough.

“So, we have seen quite a number of cases of children under 1 year old,” he said, “and the unfortunate thing with that is that those are the children who are most vulnerable to having very serious complications.”

The two pertussis deaths reported in Texas this year were both in children under 1 year of age, and neither had yet been vaccinated.

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