Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in the state and could hit a 50-year high, according to state health officials. Now, the problem has hit close to home as three cases have been confirmed at Dublin ISD. Two cases of pertussis have been confirmed at the elementary school, and as of Wednesday, another at the high school campus.
According to the Texas Department of Public Health, nearly 2,000 cases have been reported in the state in the past year. They reported more than half of infants younger than 12 months who get pertussis require hospitalization.
Two infants, who were too young to receive the whooping cough vaccine, have died, according to state records. The health department said the number of cases likely will surpass the recent high of 3,358 in 2009.
According to Dublin school officials, the district is working overtime to disinfect the classrooms. Superintendent Dr. Rodney Schneider said the district has increased its janitorial staff and they are disinfecting classrooms between classes.
"We are getting pretty aggressive with our action," Schneider said. "After school every day this week, we are fogging to disinfect and then hitting the classrooms in between classes and getting information out to our parents in the district as well."
Schneider said the district will continue to promote safety and prevention, however, they are asking parents to keep a close eye out for infection and keep sick kids home.
Dr. Lisa Cornelius, Texas infectious diseases medical officer, said, "This is extremely concerning. Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies, so people should take it seriously."
Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that often begins with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough, followed a week or two later by severe coughing that can last for several weeks. It spreads when an infected person breathes, coughs or sneezes. People of all ages can get whooping cough, but infants have the greatest risk of contracting the disease.
While most states have reported a decline in cases this year; last year, 49 states reported an increase in whooping cough cases. Researchers attribute the rise to a new type of pertussis vaccine, which is safer but less effective over the long run, and to a decline in the number of children being vaccinated.
Whooping cough vaccinations for infants can't be completed until babies are four months old, according to the health department. Most children are vaccinated by the time they reach adolescence, and almost all are vaccinated before starting school. Vaccination is also recommended during pregnancy to protect the mother and the newborn.
So far in 2013, the CDC has reports of 16 states with confirmed cases of pertussis, and more than half of those states are in the South.