SAN ANTONIO -- A highly contagious and deadly disease is sweeping through the state, prompting the Texas Dept. of State Health Services to issue a health alert. The last time Texas saw a spike in pertussis cases was in the 1950s.
As of Aug. 20, 2013, there have been 66 reported cases of pertussis in Bexar County. Last year, the total number of reported cases was 66.
Local resident Donna Poche is well informed about the risk of pertussis.
"Whenever I cough, I try to cover my mouth and turn away from people," Poche said.
Following her doctor's advice, Poche recently received a vaccine to prevent the disease.
The health alert issued Tuesday states that everyone -- from adults to children -- should make sure they're inoculated. Texas is now closer to the highest number of cases ever reported than it has been in more than five decades.
"Currently, we're on track to make an estimated record of over 100 cases in Bexar County this year," said Dr. Jason Bowling,
a physician with UT Medicine.
Dr. Bowling said adults may suffer mild symptoms consistent with a cold, like sneezing and coughing. But chances are, it's not the common cold and it could be pertussis.
"In adults it's not deadly, but causes severe coughing. It can last two to three months," Dr. Bowling explained.
The disease can be easily transferred to infants and children, if an infected person sneezes or coughs around the child. For children, however, the disease can be fatal.
"They may have spells of apnea, where they stop breathing," Bowling continued.
Dr. Bowling said some adults may not know they are infected.
"So you have this window of time where you may be transmitting it to other people," Bowling said.
That's why Poche was quick to get her vaccine.
"Oh yeah, its very easy to pass on," Poche agreed.
Poche has young grandchildren. She wanted to make sure they all remained safe.
Women who are pregnant are advised to get the shot in their third trimester.