Have Babies and Young Children, Dallas? You Might Want to Get Vaccinated Against Whooping Cough

Cases of pertussis, widely known as whooping cough, are on a "modest" uptick in Dallas County, county health officials say. So far this year, the number of cases is higher than in 2010 and 2011. And with the death of one infant this year, health officials say it's "very important for all adults who are close contacts of infants to receive the Tdap vaccine."

There is no single cause for the increase,county officials tels Unfair Park. From the cases they've seen, a fear that vaccination is somehow linked to autism -- now disproved in a number of clinical studies -- doesn't appear to be behind the increase. The resurgence is likely cyclical, reflecting the disease's natural tendency to recede and return every five years or so. The numbers aren't alarming so far -- 36 in Dallas County. At that rate, it's still below the relatively high numbers seen in 2005, 2008 and 2009, but on track to outpace last year's 69 confirmed cases.

Whooping cough, a highly contagious bacterial infection, appears like a cold at first. Soon, violent coughing fits can leave an infant or child struggling for breath. The symptoms are usually milder in older children and adults, but it is mostly preventable. The vaccine for whooping cough is administered in conjunction with vaccines for tetanus and diptheria, but not until the child is at least 6 months old. That's why health officials say it's so important for adults with infants to receive a booster. As you age, the vaccine's protection fades -- a potentially dangerous lapse if your infant is too young to be vaccinated.

In fact, some 24 percent of the identified cases of whooping cough in Dallas County have been people older than 20. Forty percent of them involve infants who haven't seen their first birthday.

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Brantley Hargrove