Canadian snowbirds headed for their winter vacation in the Rio Grande Valley should take note that whooping cough (pertussis) has reached epidemic levels in Texas and public health officials are predicting that the number of reported cases this year may hit a 50-year high.
Consequently, the Texas Department of State Health Services has urged doctors to screen their patients for whooping cough and encourage them to get vaccinated.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection of the respiratory tract and is spread by coughs and sneezes. It often begins with cold-like symptoms that are followed a week or two later by severe coughs that can last for several weeks and can lead to serious complications.
Texas state health officials report that nearly 2,000 cases of whooping cough have been reported in Texas this year. That figure includes two infants that have died.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 41,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States last year—most states reporting double or triple the rates of previous years.
Though most Canadians will have been vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis by their family physicians over the years, the effects of booster shots wear off over time. They should normally be given to adults every 10 years. But in recent years, the diagnosis of pertussis in adults has been increasing. Many experts believe this may be because the vaccines and boosters used during the 1980s and 1990s were not as effective as are the current ones.
Ordinarily, Canadian snowbirds who contract whooping cough while visiting the US will be covered for any treatments they require by their travel insurance, unless the initial symptoms set in while they were still in Canada—in which case their illness would be considered a pre-existing condition.
But since it’s better to be safe than sorry, we strongly recommend that you speak with your family doctor before you take your winter trip to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, or anywhere else for that matter. Make sure you are up to date on all of your booster shots, as it’s a lot easier preventing conditions like whooping cough than treating them.