Whooping cough has hit epidemic levels in Texas this year, with almost 2,000 reported cases and two deaths.
“If we continue to have cases in Texas at the rate we’ve had them so far this year, we’ll have more cases than has been reported for the last 50 years,” Dr. Carol J. Baker, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and executive director of the Center for Vaccine Awareness in Research at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, told CNN.
Health officials are reminding Texans to make sure their pertussis vaccinations are up to date. The disease, which causes cold symptoms followed by a severe cough, is highly contagious. It’s most dangerous for infants who are too young to get the vaccine; both of the deaths in Texas were babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women get vaccinated during each pregnancy.
Before the vaccine was developed, pertussis killed more than 4,000 per year. It’s still sickens more people than any other major illness that Americans get vaccinated for, Baker said.
The outbreak appears to be hitting Texas hardest. Nationwide, the number of pertussis cases is down from 2012.
Still, “pertussis is going to be, in my prediction, an ongoing problem,” Baker said.