Vaccinations urged as whooping cough cases rise in Lubbock County
Lubbock County cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, are on the rise.
As of the end of August, there have been 38 cases in Lubbock County, according to preliminary data from the Lubbock Health Department. There were 29 cases in 2009 and two cases in 2008, the health department reports.
Pertussis is the bacteria that causes whooping cough, said Jeremy Dalton, a pediatrician with Covenant Medical Group. The disease is very contagious and can spread easily in day cares and schools.
The infection begins with cold-like symptoms and progresses into violent, uncontrollable fits of coughing, Dalton said. The hacking cough is often followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like a “whoop.” It can be very debilitating in babies and younger children.
“Infants are by far the most at risk for mortality. They can develop severe respiratory distress,” Dalton said. “Older kids usually fare better and teens and grown-ups usually have a bad cough.”
The disease can be treated with antibiotics, but the drugs are most effective before the cough develops — and before most people seek treatment, Dalton said. People who have a nagging cough that won’t go away should visit a doctor, since it might be necessary for family members to receive antibiotics as a preventive measure.
The best way to protect yourself and your family against pertussis is to get vaccinated with the DTaP shot, Dalton said.
Children receive a series of five shots at 2, 5, and 6 months, at 12-15 months and at 4 years, he said. Most kids get a booster when they are 11 or 12.
Increased pertussis numbers here indicate the contagious nature of the disease and pockets of people who are not protected.