August 21, 2006
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is beginning a pertussis education campaign today (Aug. 21) in the face of an increasing number of cases of the serious bacterial illness.
The campaign will provide information about new vaccines to protect older children and adults against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and serve to remind parents of the critical importance of having their children complete the vaccine series at the recommended ages.
The all-time low number of cases in Texas was 36 cases recorded in 1976. But last year DSHS reported more than 2,000 cases of pertussis with nine deaths. Eight of those who died were infants.
“Pertussis used to kill as many as 10,000 people a year in the United States,” said DSHS Commissioner Eduardo Sanchez. “After a vaccine was licensed for use in 1949, those numbers dropped dramatically. But the disease is on the rise again.”
Pertussis can be especially threatening to infants too young to be vaccinated. It also is a serious health threat for older children, teens and adults whose immunity from vaccinations has waned. Pertussis symptoms include runny nose, sneezing and a cough similar to a cold, severe coughing fits and coughing spells lasting more than six weeks.
“The good news is we now have new vaccines designed to protect people in the 10 to 64 age range,” Sanchez said. “These new vaccines coupled with on-time immunizations for children are major public health tools that can help prevent serious disease and death.”
Five doses of a combined diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) are recommended at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, between 15 months and 18 months and between 4 years and 6 years of age.
The new tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine, known as Tdap, is recommended to be given to adolescents beginning at 11 to 12 years of age to replace the tetanus/diphtheria (Td) booster dose usually recommended at that age. A single dose of Tdap can replace a single dose of Td booster in adults and can be given five years after the last Td booster as protection against pertussis. Pregnant women who previously have not received Tdap should receive Tdap after childbirth, before being discharged from the hospital or birthing center.
The English/Spanish campaign, which lasts six weeks, targets areas of the state with high rates of pertussis, including Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Waco/Killeen/Bryan, El Paso, Amarillo and the Rio Grande Valley.
More information about pertussis and immunizations is available from DSHS online at ImmunizeTexas.com (www.dshs.state.tx.us/immunize).
(News Media: for more information, contact Lupe Mandujano-Garcia, DSHS Immunization Branch, 512-458-7284; or Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, 512-458-7400.)