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Public Health Alert Issued on Whooping Cough

The bacteria that causes whooping cough is spreading so fast in parts of Texas it's prompting state health officials to issue an alert to physicians.
The Texas Department of State Health Services says whooping cough cases continue climbing across the state. So far, more than 2,000 cases are confirmed in Texas. Of that number, just one of those cases is in Wichita County. Local health officials know that number can quickly rise which is why they're spreading the word on how the public can protect itself.

Whooping cough is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes while in close contact with others who then breathes in the bacteria. The disease causes coughing fits in infants, robbing their little lungs of air. And health officials say it can jeopardize their immune systems as well as their lives.

"Children typically start their vaccine at two months of age.  They don't have their full primary series until six months.  So they get a vaccine at two, four and six months of age and then a booster dose at 12 to 15 months," says Teressa Stephenson, lead public health nurse at Wichita Falls/Wichita County Public Health District.

So, health officials say the best way to protect these little ones is for anyone who comes in contact with them to get a shot of protection-- starting with the expectant mother.

"It's generally recommended in the late 2nd trimester or the 3rd trimester. Then for any adult who's going to be around an infant.  So, be it an aunt or uncle, you work in a child care facility or you just work in your church nursery on the weekends.  Regardless of your contact with an infant, it's very important that you become vaccinated," Stephenson says.

Early symptoms of whooping cough can mirror the common cold before severe coughing begins. But health officials say the bacteria can also be harmful for teens and adults. So, in addition to sending an alert to all physicians in Wichita County, health officials are also using advertising on city buses and showing a short commercial during the preview section at local movie theaters.
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