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State/Region

October 30, 2013

Whooping cough setting record

NEW ORLEANS — Whooping cough has set a post-1960s record in Louisiana and state officials are asking doctors to keep an eye out for it.

Outbreaks are worse in Texas, where nearly 2,900 cases have been reported, and Arkansas, where numbers are double those of a year ago.

Louisiana’s 169 likely and confirmed cases as of mid-October breaks a record of about 160 for all of last year, said Dr. Raoult Ratard, Louisiana’s state epidemiologist. The disease is cyclical, peaking every three to five years.

The state published a health alert about the disease Monday. Texas published a similar one in August.

Record numbers don’t mean the Bordetella pertussis germ is lurking in every cough. Last year’s vaccination-era record of 48,277 cases nationwide compares to an average of 173,000 a year from 1922 through 1947, before vaccination became widespread. About 18,500 cases were reported nationwide through Oct. 19 this year compared to 40,000 a year earlier, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Any adult likely to be around a baby should get a booster shot to avoid unknowingly spreading the extremely contagious disease, which starts with sneezing and a congested or runny nose, Ratard said.

Three babies who died this year in Texas were less than 2 months old, said Chris Van Deusen, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

— AP

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