Doctors have urged Texas residents to take precautions as an outbreak of the "whooping cough" spread across the state.
Officials state that over the past month nearly 2,000 people have been affected by an outbreak of pertussis, a disease more commonly known as the "whooping cough." The contagious disease is largely diagnosed by a persistent cough, which is where it derives its name.
At least a fourth of the cases have occurred in the Fort Worth-Arlington area according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. As of August 27th, more than 430 cases of the illness were reported in Tarrant County. Across Texas, there have been at least 1,995 people diagnosed. The illness could be lethal for some, particularly infants.
"If you have a cough, stay away from the babies," Russell Jones, Tarrant County chief epidemiologist, told the Star-Telegram.
The report alleges that at least 38 cases of the illness have required hospitalization with 33 of those cases being infants although no deaths have occurred to this point. The cause of the outbreak is still unclear. While cases of the illness can be typical, an outbreak of this size is unusual and may be the largest the state has seen in the past 50 years. As a result, those in the Texas area have been cautioned to obtain a vaccination. Vaccinations are available for both children and adults.
"This is extremely concerning. If cases continue to be diagnosed at the current rate, we will see the most Texas cases since the 1950s," said Dr. Lisa Cornelius, DSHS infectious diseases medical officer, in Texas Health Department press release. "Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies, so people should take it seriously."
A health alert issued on Tuesday said Pertussis is characterized by "a long cough illness, which may be preceded by a cold-like illness. The cough will often occur in paroxysms and may be followed by vomiting or a "whoop" sound." Treatments and vaccination information can be found here.