There have been 895 confirmed or probable cases of pertussis in Texas as of July 30, according to the Texas Department of State Health Service’s most recent data. This is twice as many cases as there were by this time last year. This year, just more than 11 percent of cases require hospitalization, and in children younger than 2 months old, 65.5 percent are hospitalized.
In August, the Northeast Public Health District received 15 reports about pertussis in a seven-county area, including Smith, Gregg, Anderson, Henderson, Wood, Rains and Van Zandt counties. However, all have not been confirmed cases.
Stephanie Taylor, director of outreach and assistance at the district, said they have seen spikes during different parts of the year, so there is no typical season for pertussis outbreaks.
Parents at Vista Academy of Tyler were notified Wednesday morning about a student with pertussis. Tammy Sanders, the charter school’s regional health program administrator, said the school received confirmation of the child’s diagnosis late Tuesday, and letters were distributed to parents Wednesday morning. The child is a kindergartener and is up-to-date on vaccinations, she said.
In addition, Ms. Sanders said school officials are taking extra precautions by “strenuously” disinfecting the building, as the infection is easily spread through coughing and sneezing.
Parents at the school are encouraged to double check their child’s immunization records and seek medical attention if they develop any cold-like symptoms.
The disease can cause serious illness in anyone, but it is particularly dangerous in infants. Pertussis is treated with antibiotics.
Health officials said the vaccine, DTaP, wanes after several years. The vaccine is administered to infants and children in a five-dose series with the last one given between 4 and 6 years old. A booster dose is given at 11 or 12. A booster for teens and adults, approved in 2005, was combined with the tetanus booster, which adults may receive at least every 10 years.
The CDC said the country may be experiencing the worst pertussis year in five decades. The rate of pertussis has continued to increase since reaching historic lows in the 1970s. Nearly 18,000 cases have been reported in the U.S. by mid-July, according to the CDC.
There is no clear answer why there have been spikes in recent years. Dr. Jonathan MacClements, of the Smith County Health Authority, believes many factors may be at play, including waning immunity, more awareness about the disease and better screenings. He said health officials also are investigating the effectiveness of the vaccine approved in 2005.
“I don’t think anyone really knows at this stage,” he said. “The reason we’ve added the pertussis to the adults’ dose of the tetanus diphtheria is because we realized a few years ago that pertussis is now harbored in the adult population.”
Therefore, he said, adults should continue getting vaccinated, up until age 64.
“If children have pertussis, we make sure that anyone who has close contact is treated as well,” MacClements said. “…People shouldn’t be alarmed that there’s pertussis in the community. If you have a persistent cough that won’t go away, go and see your doctor. We can screen for it.”
Texas has not been hit as hard as other states. CDC reports indicate that Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin and Colorado are among the states that have experienced incidences of pertussis higher than the national average.
Pertussis prevention at a glance
Make sure your child is up-to-date on vaccination against pertussis. There are five doses, with the first shot at 2 months and the last between 4 and 6 years. A booster shot is recommended around 11 or 12.
Adults who are around children are advised to get a whooping cough booster shot so they don’t spread it to young children, who are the most vulnerable to whooping cough.
The illness typically starts with cold-like symptoms, which may include a runny nose, congestion, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Infants may have a pause in breathing, called apnea.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention