Texans are noted for doing things in a big way. The outbreak of whooping cough in that state is no exception. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) MMWR report for November 27 has the state ranked second in the total number of cases nationally. As of that date, Texas has reported 2,322 cases of pertussis in 2010. In 2009, Texas lead the nation at year end with a total case count of just over 2,400.
In this century, Texas has averaged 1,400 cases of whooping cough per year. The last high case count year, before 2009, was in 2005 when the state reported 2,224 cases.
The current outbreak in Texas is not statewide. The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Austin City / Travis County Health and Human Services Department have data on their websites that show the pertussis outbreak as centered around the City of Austin, Travis County and the surrounding counties. Austin is the state capital and home to several colleges and universities including the University of Texas.
The Austin whooping cough outbreak report for December 1 reveals a total of 923 cases for 2010 in the city and in Travis County. That represents 40% of the total statewide. The state of Texas provides a map of the pertussis case incidence rates for 2009 and the outbreak is clearly centered around Austin and Travis County.
Travis County cases numbers have been dropping over the course of 2010. The peak month was February 2010 with 137, but Fall 2010 is averaging about 50 new cases per month. Over the course of the outbreak, October 2009 through December 1, 2010, 64% of the whooping cough cases have been in children under age 8. 18% have been in infants under 12 months of age. The data is provisional, and may be revised as individual cases are investigated and data collection completed.
The latest CDC data on immunization coverage is from 2009. For children age 3 and under, 75-86% of Texas children had received the recommended 4 doses of pertussis vaccine. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are just under 2.1 million children in Texas under age 5, when the fifth dose of pertussis vaccine would be administered. Calculations suggest that some 397,000 children in Texas have not been fully immunized against whooping cough.
Texas is one of twenty states that allow parents to refuse to immunize their children based on some type of strong personal belief. That portion of the Texas Administrative Code reads:
“To claim an exclusion for reasons of conscience, including a religious belief, a signed affidavit must be presented by the child’s parent or legal guardian, stating that the child’s parent or legal guardian declines vaccinations for reasons of conscience, including because of the person’s religious beliefs.“