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Group Blames Vaccine Hesitancy For Increase In Texas Pertussis Cases

Texas reported almost 4,000 cases of whooping cough last year.



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Anna Dragsbaek speaking tpo group
Anna Dragsbaek, president of the Immunization Partnership, speaks during a stakeholder meeting in Houston.

About six weeks ago, an infant in Travis County died of pertussis, or whooping cough. While deaths are rare, the number of pertussis cases in Texas was at a 50-year high last year, at 3,977 infections reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services. At the same time, rates have gone down in the rest of the country.

Anna Dragsbaek is the president of the Immunization Partnership, a Houston-based nonprofit that advocates immunization for preventable diseases.

“This is a concern because otherwise healthy adults will get very, very sick from it, could cough for up to three months, could break a rib, could burst an eye vessel and could be very sick,” Dragsbaek said. “But if that adult infects a baby who is too young to be fully immunized, that baby could very well end up in the hospital or even die.”

The Immunization Partnership is holding stakeholder meetings with health professionals in several Texas cities this year, including in Houston this week.

Nidhi Nakra, director of education and advocacy with the Immunization Partnership, speaks during a stakeholder meeting in Houston.

Nidhi Nakra, director of education and advocacy with the group, said part of the problem is a continuing vaccine hesitancy here in Texas as well as across the country. And that affects the whole community.

“There’s more opportunity for disease to then be transmitted through an unvaccinated community, or in a community where vaccinations are low,” Nakra said. “And then we see a resurgence of vaccine preventable diseases, like we’re seeing now with pertussis and measles.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine during each pregnancy.

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