AUSTIN (KXAN) - Cases of pertussis -- known as whooping cough -- are on the increase in Texas, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
There have been six deaths this year and more than 1,000 confirmed cases of the disease. DSHS is therefore issuing a health advisory urging immunization against the potentially lethal illness. The six deaths are the most for a single year since 2005.
There were 961 total Texas cases of pertussis last year, down from a peak of 3,358 in 2009.
According to Travis County officials, there were 224 cases reported in 2011, the highest in the state per county.
Williamson County reported 92 cases in 2011; Harris County had 90 cases; Tarrant County reported 95 cases.
Five of the deaths this year were among infants younger than 2 months old, the age at which the first pertussis vaccination is recommended. This underscores how important it is for parents and others around newborns to make sure they have received the recommended doses of vaccine.
The sixth death was of an unvaccinated older child with underlying medical conditions.
Pertussis is a very contagious bacterial illness usually spread by coughing or sneezing. It often starts with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough. After a week or two, severe coughing can begin. The symptoms are usually milder in teens and adults but can be life threatening for young children because of the risk of apnea, a pause in breathing.
To protect babies, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DSHS recommend pregnant women get a pertussis vaccine any time after 20 weeks gestation.
Others who will be around infants should also get a shot
- older siblings
- other caregivers
- health care professionals like doctors and nurses who care for babies.
Doctors who suspect pertussis should report the case to their local health department as soon as possible to help stop the disease from spreading.
Patients who have pertussis should not go back to work or school until they've had five days of antibiotic treatment.
The complete health advisory, including recommendations for vaccination for all ages, is available at to read online .
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