San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 29th, 2010
County PHD issues whooping cough caution


The Hays County Personal Health Department (PHD) announced Friday that residents of Hays County should take extra precautions to prevent the spread of pertussis, better known as whooping cough.

A highly contagious bacterial infection, whooping cough is on the rise, according to the PHD, which said statistics show an increase in whooping cough cases for all ages, including the younger, high-risk age groups of two weeks through four years.

Whooping cough is a serious health threat, especially for children who are too young to receive a vaccine, are under-vaccinated or are behind the recommended schedule for receiving their immunizations. Younger children and infants can be especially hard hit and have difficulty recovering.

“Whooping cough begins like a cold, with a runny nose, sneezing and a cough that slowly gets worse,” said Deb Mahan, RN, an epidemiology nurse with the PHD. “After a week or two, strong coughing fits occur, which in young children are often followed by a whooping sound as the child tries to catch his breath.

“The sudden increase in whooping cough cases concerns us, since in January 2009 we had only one case reported, but since early December 2009 we’ve had 24 probable cases reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services,” Mahan continued. “If you suspect that you or a member of your family has whooping cough, please see your health care provider immediately.”

The PHD recommends the following to prevent whooping cough:

•        Frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizers when hand washing is unavailable

•        Cover your cough

•        See your doctor immediately if you suspect that you or a family member has whooping cough

•        Protect infants from coughing children and adults

•        Start childhood vaccinations on time and stay on schedule, using a vaccine called DTap, which contains diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccines

•        Boost immunity to whooping cough in adolescents and adults by using a specially formulated vaccine for adolescents and adults called Tdap, which contains pertussis vaccine as well as tetanus and diphtheria vaccines.

The PHD said adults 19 through 64 years of age who expect to have close contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age should get a dose of Tdap. Waiting at least two years since the last dose of tetanus is suggested, but not required. All persons who might be in contact with a newborn child should receive the vaccination before the infant’s birth.

For more information, contact the PHD at (512) 393-5525 or (512) 393-5520 or go to

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