The Texas Department of State Health Services issued a health advisory Thursday for pertussis -- more commonly known as the whooping cough.
Six deaths and more than 1,000 cases of the disease have been reported in Texas in 2012 alone, and that's why health officials are urging Texans to get immunized against the disease.
Russell Hopkins of the North East Texas Public Health District says that pertussis, a respiratory disease caused by bacteria, happens year-round in the state, but there's a reason the numbers may be getting higher.
"The bacteria also resides in adults and adults have waning immunity from the vaccine that they got years ago, and they need to have a booster shot," Hopkins said.
Pertussis is most dangerous for babies and young children. Doctors recommend children receive five doses of the vaccine before they turn six.
Five of the deaths were infants under the age of two months, when immunizations start for whooping cough, and the sixth was of an unvaccinated older child with underlying health conditions.
"We've seen a slight upswing in Texas this year. it comes in cycles about very three or four years," Paul McGaha with the Texas Department of State Health Services said in May. "This is not uncommon, but anytime it happens we take it very seriously and want the appropriate vaccines to be used and preventative measures to be taken."
Symptoms of pertussis start with a runny or stuffed-up nose, sneezing, a mild cough, and a pause of breathing in infants. That leads to a severe cough that experts say must be treated by antibiotics.
"Pertussis is a very serious disease," Hopkins said. "It takes a long time to get over, six, eight, ten weeks at times. Even on the antibiotic therapy it can take a long time to get over pertussis."
And Hopkins says getting vaccinated is the only way to build up the immunity needed to fight the disease.
"If they come into contact with pertussis in a sufficient amount to transfer the disease, there's no way to fight it off," said Hopkins. "Your body does not have the immune capabilities to be able to do that."
Health experts say that children are more likely to get whooping cough because they haven't built up an immunity to the bacteria that causes the disease.
Adults are recommended to get a new booster shot every seven to eight years.
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