Southern Nevada Experiencing More Pertussis Cases - 8 News NOW

Southern Nevada Experiencing More Pertussis Cases

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Teresa Martinez with her newborn baby. Teresa Martinez with her newborn baby.

LAS VEGAS -- Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious and on the increase in the Las Vegas valley. Health officials used to deal with about 30 cases a year, but now they are seeing more than triple that caseload.

Pertussis is treatable, but in some cases, involving babies, it can be deadly. The Southern Nevada Health District is taking big measures to monitor possible outbreaks.

The illness causes a convulsive cough and those facing the highest risk are newborn babies like 2-week-old Cenaida Martinez. Her mother is taking no chances.

"Right now, I don't really take her out because of the same thing. She's too little and I think it's easier for her to get any kind of infection or disease," new mom Teresa Martinez said.

Babies are often not fully vaccinated against pertussis and can easily catch it from an infected person. The health district is monitoring medical laboratories to see if doctors are ordering whooping cough tests. Recently, several states have seen a jump in the number of cases.

"The concern is that it's going to explode and that there will be cases all over the county," said Dr. Nancy Williams, a medical epidemiologist.

The Southern Nevada Health District is seeing mostly school age kids in Clark County contracting whooping cough, despite a vaccine requirement before starting school.

"The vaccine is pretty effective but not perfectly effective and actually most of the cases that we're identifying are actually among the vaccinated," Dr. Williams said.

While the whooping cough vaccine may not protect 100 percent, Martinez feels it gives her daughter a fighting chance.

"It' important she has them because she needs them. It's preventing her from getting sick."

Despite reported increases, health district officials said Nevada has not seen the major outbreaks that have occurred in other states.

The health district also encourages the elderly be vaccinated.

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