Whooping cough makes comeback in Texas

Whooping cough, a common childhood killer in the early 1900s, is making a 21st-century comeback in Texas, say experts at a statewide immunization summit wrapping up today in Fort Worth.

Last year, 3,358 Texans contracted whooping cough, also known as pertussis, and three of them died. It was the most reported cases in half a century. This year, Texas has reported 1,783 cases.

The return of whooping cough is a reminder to public health officials that vaccination programs are still critical, even though many diseases such as smallpox and polio are not the threats they once were.

"Immunizations in Texas have improved since the last conference," said Anna Dragsbaek, president and CEO of The Immunization Partnership, a summit sponsor. "Texas used to be one of the states with the lowest immunization rates, but now it's one of the top 12."

State health services and public and private collaborations have helped improve the rates, she said, but public education is still crucial.

Many parents, unfamiliar with the potential ravages of childhood diseases such as measles, rubella and mumps, sometimes resist immunizations for their children out of fear of the process itself.

"Unfortunately it is an urban myth that just won't die," Dragsbaek said of the suspicions about immunization safety.

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