July 7, 2008
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and local health officials are promoting vaccinations to help control an increase in pertussis cases in Lamar County . A total of 20 cases has been reported in the county since the first of the year, mostly in children age 9 to 11.
The last year in which pertussis was reported in Lamar County was 2005 when there was one case.
Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a bacterial illness transmitted from person to person in respiratory droplets during talking, coughing and sneezing. The infection usually is mild in older children and adults but can cause serious problems and even death in young infants. The pertussis vaccine cannot be given to infants until they are two months old.
“Protecting young infants by vaccinating the children, teens and adults around them is critical to preventing the spread of pertussis,” said Dr. Paul McGaha, DSHS regional medical director in Tyler . “Even if people have received the vaccine when they were younger, they need one booster dose because immunity against pertussis begins to drop as a they get older.”
Tdap, a vaccine that can protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, was licensed for adolescents and adults in 2005. A Tdap booster may be given if it has been at least two years since the last dose of tetanus vaccine.
Health officials recommend that adolescents age 11 through 18 get one booster dose of Tdap. Adults age 19 through 64 should substitute Tdap for one booster dose of tetanus-diphtheria (Td). Healthcare workers who have direct contact with patients in hospitals or clinics also should get a dose of Tdap. Pregnant women should get one booster dose of Tdap as soon as their baby is born. Call your local health care provider or local health department for more information.
Pertussis symptoms can vary from person to person. Symptoms typically include a cough that may progress from mild to spasms, gagging or vomiting following cough spasms and occasionally a whooping sound. Fever, if present, may be mild.
“Vaccination against pertussis is a part of the normal recommended immunization schedule for children,” said Anthony Bethel, director of the Paris-Lamar County Health Department. “Parents should check with their child's health care provider about the schedule.”
(News media: For more information, contact Dr. Paul McGaha, Regional Medical Director, Tyler; 903-533-5264; Carol Hill, Paris-Lamar County Health Department, 903-785-4561; or Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, Austin , 512-458-7400.)