2012 was deemed the worst year for pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, in the last six decades. Currently, Texas is facing an epidemic of the disease, which has sickened more than 2,000 infants and killed two.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection, which causes uncontrollable coughing and makes breathing difficult. It’s especially dangerous to infants, particularly those under two months who have not had the chance to get immunized.
Health officials and organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are urging adults and children to get vaccinated. Caregivers of infants and young children should also get immunized. Pregnant women can also receive the vaccine, which will be transmitted to the fetus through the placenta, offering some protection to the baby.
According to the CDC, people with pertussis often spread it by coughing or sneezing in close contact with others who then breathe in the bacteria. Infants are typically infected by adults or siblings. Symptoms usually develop within 7 to 10 days, but can take up to six weeks.
Whooping cough begins to appear with cold-like symptoms including runny nose, fever and mild cough but after a week or so, violent coughing appears. The illness gets its name from the whoop sound that patients get after the extreme and repetitive coughing that makes it difficult to breathe.
The CDC says the best way to prevent getting the illness is by getting vaccinated. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP and the vaccine booster for adults and teens is called Tdap. Though not always 100 percent effective, those who are immunized and get pertussis experience milder symptoms.