Whooping cough cases in NM still high

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Whooping cough has sickened more than 300 people in New Mexico this year, a drop from last year’s record pace, but still a high enough rate that state health officials have expressed concern.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1dZy5ao ) that so far this year 343 people have had pertussis. The New Mexico Department of Health says the bacterial illness has hospitalized 17 New Mexicans, including 11 infants. No pertussis deaths have been reported.

Whooping cough had sickened 519 New Mexicans through Aug. 28, last year.

The hallmark symptom of whooping cough is a severe cough that can last for months. Symptoms usually begin 21 days after exposure, beginning with a runny nose, sneezing and a mild fever.

Officials are warning state residents to watch out for pertussis symptoms and get a Tdap booster shot, particularly if you expect to spend time with infants.

“If you are around young infants and you or someone else has a cough illness, don’t expose those babies, because it might be pertussis,” said Joan Baumbach, medical epidemiologist for the New Mexico Department of Health.

Infants who have yet to complete the four-shot series of vaccinations are at greatest risk of whooping cough, which is treated with antibiotics.

Health officials also recommend that all pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine to help protect their newborn infants from whooping cough. The Tdap booster guards against pertussis, tetanus and diphtheria.

Women vaccinated after 20 weeks of pregnancy transfer pertussis antibodies to newborns, helping protect them until they complete their own vaccine series, Baumbach said.

Parents should also ensure that children get a required pertussis booster dose, called DTaP, before entering elementary school, she said.

The U.S. has experienced a spike in pertussis illnesses in recent years. New Mexico and the nation had a record high number of pertussis cases in 2012 when the disease sickened 41,000 Americans and 898 New Mexicans.

Pertussis caused two New Mexico deaths last year, including one infant.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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