An increase in the number of cases of whooping cough over the last month in Tarrant County, Texas, and the death of two infants with this disease, is causing concern among officials in the Department of State Health Services.
Whooping cough outbreaks tend to occur every three to five years. With 1885 cases being reported in Texas this year so far, the last major outbreak in Texas was reported in 2009, when 3,358 cases were reported.
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, or the 100-day cough, is a highly infectious respiratory disease, caused by the bacteria, Bordetella pertussis. The disease usually starts with cold or flu-like symptoms with a mild cough or fever. A dry intermittent cough may then develop over the next few days which over a two week period develops into attacks of a choking cough that lasts from 1 to 2 minutes, often causing vomiting, and a feeling of suffocation. The sufferer may produce a ‘Whooping’ sound which comes from the voice box after an attack, when he or she is suddenly able to breathe in again. Although treatable by antibiotics, if left untreated, whooping cough lasts at least 3 weeks and can frequently go on for 3 months or even longer.
Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the state health department, highlighted that whooping cough can be deadly for very young children and newborns, as it causes uncontrollable coughing and they can’t get enough oxygen: “It’s of biggest concern for very young children. Infants can’t be vaccinated until they are two months old. That’s why we are encouraging anyone around newborns — parents, family, doctors, nurses and other medical providers — to make sure they have a recent pertussis vaccine.” If left untreated, the cough worsens and can lead to choking suffocation or secondary pneumonia.
With vaccination rates for whooping cough decreasing, Van Deusen is encouraging parents to make sure their children have the vaccination.
BioNews Texas reported on a whooping cough-related story back in mid-June, with news that Delfina C. Domínguez, Ph.D., a professor of clinical laboratory sciences at The University of Texas at El Paso from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science, received a grant from the Department of Chemistry at UTEP to create a low-cost diagnostic device for whooping cough that offers rapid results. The need for new technology in diagnosing and treating whooping cough is in direct response to the infection’s rise in the Gulf states.
The following video from the Mayo Clinic offers an overview of whooping cough: