The first death from pertussis in Nueces County was reported by authorities on Wednesday, just after a press conference held by the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Health District focused on the increase of pertussis cases in the Coastal Bend, and the urgent need of vaccination to prevent the illness.

A Corpus Christi baby of 6 months succumbed to the illness after a lengthy battle, having been hospitalized since Aug. 28. Looking back on their records, the Health District states that the baby's death was the first in Corpus Christi for 2013, and may have been the first area death in over a decade from pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough.

A report from the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District states that the level of pertussis cases in Nueces County has been on a recent rise, with 16 cases reported in the area in 2013; 11 of those cases requiring hospitalization.

With all of that being said, the fact remains, pertussis is preventable.

“Pertussis is preventable through vaccine and it is of vital importance that anyone who is around a pregnant female receives their pertussis vaccine,” said Annette Rodriguez, M.P.H., Director of Public Health.

Dr. Jaime Ferge, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Driscoll Children's Hospital, further stressed this point, stating that the most important thing to prevent pertussis is for pregnant females to receive the vaccination in their third trimester, and for all other relatives who will come into close proximity with the newborn to receive the vaccination two weeks before the baby is due.

According to the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District, pertussis is an extremely serious respiratory infection, with the pertussis bacteria attacking the lungs and breathing tubes. It causes uncontrollable coughing.

Dr. Fergie states that the whooping cough infects adults, and can cause many problems, but when a child under two (such as an infant who has not built up a tolerance or acquired the antibodies to fight against the infection) contracts the illness, it can be extremely harmful, or even deadly.

The DTaP vaccine is the defense against pertussis (the whooping cough), and pregnant females should heed the advice given by the Health District.

The Health District provided a list of symptoms for whooping cough, which include runny or stuffed nose, sneezing, mild cough, a pause in breathing in infants (apnea). After one or two weeks, the coughing starts. In children and babies, the coughing can be very hard, and can be extremely repetitive.

The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health Distric also states that when children gasp for breath after a coughing fit, they make a “whooping" sound. Babies and young children may turn blue while coughing from lack of oxygen and vomit after coughing fits.

The death reported reported on Wednesday may be the first in 2013, but once again, there is a rising trend in cases. Remember to vaccinate early, in order to prevent more severe cases of pertussis.