With just 12 weeks left in 2013, an e-mail today from Chris Van Dusen of the Texas Department of State Health Services reveals Texas has seen 2,652 whooping cough, or pertussis, cases this year. The epidemic continues to be centered in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex, where 42.5 percent of all cases have been reported. Tarrant County has 519 cases and is one of just seven counties in the state with over 100 reported cases.
Analysis of available data suggests that if the rate of increase in pertussis cases continues, Texas will close 2013 with about 4,100 whooping cough reports. That would be the highest number of cases in Texas since the 1950s, when the vaccine to prevent pertussis was introduced widely. The previous record was in 2009, when the state registered 3,358 pertussis cases.
Seven Texas counties have reported over 100 pertussis cases. Tarrant and the city of Fort Worth leads at 519 cases, followed by Dallas County and city with 284, Harris County and Houston with 215, Denton County reporting 191, Travis County and Austin with 189, Hidalgo County and McAllen with 167 and Collin County with 133 cases. The seven include four DFW metroplex counties, Tarrant, Dallas, Denton and Collin.
Infants are at highest risk from pertussis, because their immunity to the illness is low or non-existent, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Tarrant County, in a press release yesterday, revealed that 104 infants have been diagnosed with whooping cough in the county this year. Of that total, 36 percent required hospitalization for their illness.
Tarrant and Denton Counties are the location of this year's worst measles outbreak in modern Texas history. Based on the latest data, from 2011-1012, they are also among the four Texas counties with the highest number of school children whose parents have exempted them from required immunizations based on the state's personal belief (conscientious) exemption. The other two counties are Harris and Travis.
In 2011-2012, 28,432 students were reported to have received the conscientious exemption in Texas. That represented 0.57 percent of all registered students. The four counties, Tarrant, Denton, Harris and Travis, each reported 2,070 to 3,420 exempted students in that year.
The Centers for Disease Control report for the 2012-2013 school year shows that Texas had an unusually high number of both medical and non-medical exemptions among children entering kindergarten in Sept. 2012. A total of 1.7 percent of those children received an immunization exemption of some sort. The number of medical exemptions given children was the highest in the nation. The number of non-medical exemptions, religious and philosophical, ranked fourth nationally.