Pertussis Prompts Health Alert

If Texas pertussis cases continue to be diagnosed and reported at the current rate, the deadly disease will reach its highest level in the state in more than 50 years, warns the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in a health alert issued Sept. 3.

Doctors who suspect a pertussis infection must report it to their local health department within one working day. Patients who have pertussis should complete five days of antibiotic treatment before returning to work or school.

"This is extremely concerning," said Lisa Cornelius, MD, DSHS infectious diseases medical officer. "Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies, so people should take it seriously."

DSHS strongly encourages people to make sure their children's and their own vaccinations are current. Nearly 2,000 pertussis cases have been reported this year, including two pertussis-related deaths in infants too young to be vaccinated.

To better protect babies, DSHS recommends pregnant women be vaccinated during every pregnancy, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This helps protect the baby before he or she can start the vaccination series at 2 months and helps keep the mother from getting sick and infecting the baby. Fathers, siblings, extended family members, health care professionals, and others who are around newborns should also be vaccinated.

Further details on diagnosing and treating the disease are included in the DSHS health alert.

Action, Sept. 4, 2013

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