The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports nearly 18,000 cases of Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, have been reported so far this year.
It is quickly becoming the worst national epidemic in more than 50 years.
It is a haunting sound no parent wants to hear, the sound of a child gasping for air.
Kay Sabine, an RN for the Wichita Falls Public Health District, says there have been three confirmed cases in Wichita County.
The recent spike in Pertussis cases across the country have local health officials like Sabine urging parents to be aware.
"A cough lasting longer than two weeks should set off bells that you need to go to the doctor for sure," Sabine says.
There have been nine deaths nationwide and the need to protect children from Whooping Cough is extremely important.
Sabine says, "As of with most diseases, adults can shake it off pretty quickly but children usually don't."
She adds, "They are the ones who tend to get sicker faster and require hospitalization more than adults do."
Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and a low-grade fever but the only way to prevent the disease is vaccination.
"For infants, they'll get doses of what's called TDaP, the 'P' is for Pertussis. At two months, four months, six months and again between 12 and 18 months," Sabine says.
Children will also have to get additional booster shots before they start school and those going into 7th grade.
For infants too young to be vaccinated, Sabine recommends adults getting at least one dose of the Pertussis vaccine.
Sabine exclaims, "Anyone that is going to be in close contact with the infant should be vaccinated against Pertussis so that everyone who is surrounding that child before that child is old to enough to be fully immunized is protected and not transmitting to the child."
The process is called cocooning.
The goal is to create a safety barrier around the child.
"They need to make sure that they've had the vaccine at least two weeks before they start having close contact with the baby to make sure that it's fully working in their immune system before they start get to play with the sweet, little babies," Sabine adds.
Also, pregnant women in their third trimester can safely get the vaccine.
Sabine says adults 19 years or older who don't have any insurance may qualify for the Pertussis vaccine for $15 from the Wichita Falls Public Health District.
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