Whooping cough prompts health advisory at Texas Capitol building

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of State Health Services issued a health advisory at the Texas State Capitol on Thursday after a person working there was diagnosed with pertussis, better known as whooping cough. 

By Monday, a steady stream of staffers could be seen heading in and out of the Capitol’s nurse practitioner’s office to get booster shots of the Tdap vaccine. 

Representative Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, is among those who went to get the shot, along with her whole team. 

I had a staff member come to me and say, ‘you know we have somebody in our office with a baby at home, should we be worried,’ she said. It got me thinking, well darn it, I guess we should all go get our shots.

Representative Sarah Davis, R-Bellaire, identified the person diagnosed as a House Page. She sent out a tweet that said, New House Rule…proof of vaccination requirement for all House Pages…

Early whooping cough symptoms include cough, a pause in breathing, runny nose and low grade fever, according to the Texas Medical Association. It’s only later that more severe symptoms emerge, including rapid coughing followed by the whoop sound. 

Austin Pediatrician Maria Monge says pertussis is highly contagious and can be deadly in babies less than one-year-old.

One person can infect, it’s estimated between 12 and 15 people just in one location, said Dr. Monge.

For Representative Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, the advisory was particularly concerning given that she often brings her 9-month-old baby to work with her. The first thing she did was call her pediatrician and later she canceled a weekend play date, and also dinner with her 91-year-old grandmother. 

She’s optimistic the legislature will learn from the scare and start advocating for vaccinations.

I’m hopeful that now this worry about exposure has touched us as a body…That we will focus more on promoting good science and helping rebuilding faith in our medical institutions, Zwiener said.

The Department of State Health Services did not respond when asked if visitors were possibly exposed to pertussis as well. 

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