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Fourth child dies in Texas whooping cough epidemic

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The Corpus Christi Caller reported late on Dec. 18 that a Corpus Christi infant has died from complications of whooping cough. The child had been hospitalized since Aug. 28 with the serious respiratory illness. This is the fourth child in Texas to have died from whooping cough, or pertussis, in 2013.

The Caller quotes the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District as reporting a total of 16 pertussis cases in the county for 2013. Hospitalization was necessary for 11 patients. This is the first whooping cough death in the county in at least a decade.

Texas is experiencing epidemic whooping cough. Through Dec. 16, the state had seen 3,482 pertussis illnesses, a modern-era record. Including the most recent death, 3 infants and one toddler have died due to the illness this year.

The epidemic is centered around Tarrant County, in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex. Tarrant County reports 646 pertussis cases as of Dec. 16. This breaks a county record that has stood since 1940. Of the 646 cases, infants under 12 months of age account for 132 cases and 44 of those infants have required hospitalization.

Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a bacteria. Infants are at greatest risk of serious illness or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control, because they have little or no immunity to the infection. Whooping cough is treatable with antibiotics but prevention is the best option. A pertussis vaccine is available.

The CDC urges that anyone in contact with an infant be fully immunized, which may include a booster. Pregnant mothers should received a pertussis booster. All caregivers, including grandparents, should also be immunized. A patient does not become immune to future infections by the whooping cough bacteria if they have the illness.

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