Public Health: Pertussis in Tarrant County
Tarrant County Public Health
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{Tarrant County Public Health - Safeguarding Our Community}


Pertussis in Tarrant County


Pertussis, or whooping cough, has become a major concern in Tarrant County. 

As of September 22, Tarrant County Public Health has investigated 320 cases of pertussis. Of those, 48 have been infants. Eleven people have been hospitalized (seven infants, two one-year olds and two people older than 60).


Overall, the number of pertussis cases this year is down 37 percent for the same time period (January – August), as in 2013.


{Pertussis comparisons, 2013-2014}


Below is a chart with this year’s epi curve and that for 2013 for comparision.


{Pertussis cases by month and year, 2013-2014}  


We did not see the large peak in cases during the summer that happened in 2013. The table below compares the number of cases this year to 2013 by month through August. 



In addition to the total case counts being down this year as compared to last, the number of hospitalizations (11) is less than last year at this time  (48).


While this sounds like good news, the  case count this year will still be the second largest in Tarrant County since 1940. Infant age specific rates are still high – 170.3/100,000 so far this year.


Most of the pertussis cases have occurred in people who are 18 years and younger (89 percent) . The percent of cases who are of school age, 5-18 years old, is 55 percent.  


{Pertussis cases by age}



The signs and symptoms of pertussis (whooping cough) begin with common cold symptoms, sometimes followed by coughing fits and difficulty breathing.  Adults feel fine between the coughing fits. Babies may not cough – but may just quit breathing. Small children will gasp for air, sometimes making the “whoop” sound.


The disease is most serious for babies who may not be able to eat, drink or breathe if they catch this disease.

What can be done to protect infants?
  • Early, short-term protection is critical.  A baby will not get his first whooping cough shot until he is 2 months old.  Therefore the CDC and Tarrant County Public Health recommend pregnant women receive a whooping cough booster shot between the 27th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. This allows the mother’s body to make antibodies that will be passed onto the baby before birth and provide some short-term protection early in life. Plus it prevents the mother from catching the disease and passing it on to the baby.
  • Relatives and household members who will be in close contact with the baby and have not had a pertussis booster, called a TdaP, should get one before the baby is born. This is called “cocooning” as it surrounds the baby with people who will not give them the disease.
  • Keep babies away from people who are coughing. Pertussis only lives in people and a baby can get the disease only from another person. If you have a friend or relative who is ill, especially coughing, keep them away from the baby.
  • People, who will be in contact with a baby and are ill, should see their doctor and stay away from infants.
  • When baby is 2 months old, he or she should get her first whooping cough shot. Then again at 4 months and 6 months.
  • Keep baby’s siblings up to date on their shots.

Tarrant County Public Health has prepared flyers and posters in both English and Spanish with a simple message: "Protect all your family against whooping cough. Get vaccinated now! Keep your baby away from anyone who is sick. If you are sick, don’t go near any babies. Get vaccinated against whooping cough."

"Protect" flyer (8.5"x11"): English   Spanish

"Protect" poster (11"x17"):  English   Spanish

"Mothers" flyer (8.5"x11"):  English   Spanish

"Mothers" poster (11"x17"):  English   Spanish

TCPH has also prepared these "Whooping Cough" Advisories that schools, businesses and other organizations may use:

English   Spanish

For more information call 817-321-4700.

Content Last Modified on 9/23/2014 3:04:30 PM

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