Texas health officials have identified nearly 2,000 cases of whooping cough in the state, on track for the highest number of the infectious and sometimes deadly disease in 50 years.
Pertussis, named for the whooping sound made by the infected, is caused by the spread of the Bordetella pertussis bacterium through coughing and sneezing -- but can be easily prevented with vaccination.
The CDC recommends five doses within the first six years of life, or that all pregnant women get the vaccination between the 27th and 36th week of pregnancy.
But in Texas, the vaccination rate of 94 percent lags behind the national average
“Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies, so people should take it seriously," said Dr. Lisa Cornelius, the Texas state infectious diseases medical officer.
In fact, two infants have already died this year in Texas, both too young to start post-natal vaccination.
Health officials said infants that contract pertussis may gag, gasp, vomit or experience apnea or cyanosis, while unvaccinated children, adolescents and adults experience coughing fits followed by the classic "whoop" sound.
Infants who contract the cough often require hospitalization, whereas children and adults can be treated with antibiotics.