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      Local cases reported in whooping cough epidemic

      A whooping cough epidemic, that's what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are calling it. In Texas alone, close to 2,000 cases have been reported, 11 locally.

      That horrible sound that no parent wants to hear. An infant with a seal like cough, an infant gasping for air.

      "With babies there's no whoop of cough, it's like a common cold/cough. So if we see an infant especially below the age of one year old and the cough is lasting to many days without a rhyme or reason," said Texas Tech Physicians Department of Pediatrics, Vinod K. Sethi, M.D., F.A.A.P.

      In the Texas Panhandle, nine cases were reported last year. This year, 11 cases with two deaths statewide. So why the spike? Officials say parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children against it over fears that vaccine causes autism.

      "I wish that this concept for the fear of getting autism if you get the vaccine would go away because we have been seeing how this is a problem with the epidemic. And I'm afraid if our population doesn't get properly immunized both children and adults will face many more of these infectious diseases," said Dr. Sethi.

      Vaccinations for infants start at two months and continue through six years of age. For medical officials they're stressing the importance of anyone around small children getting vaccinated.

      "Right now, we request all pregnant women who are in their last trimester please go get yourself immunized because if you get immunized as a pregnant lady your chances of your baby having the whooping cough are going to be really small," said Dr. Sethi.

      For daycares, a health scare is something they take notice of. At Amarillo College's Child Development Lab School they say they take extra precautions by hand washing constantly and cleaning.

      "What we do is we do a lot of hand washing. We wash before we eat, we wash after we eat, we wash when we come in from the playground. We wash a lot. We clean our center with bleach. Well we clean it with three different articles. We use a soapy water solution, then we clean it with clear water, and then we use a bleach solution," said Acting Director of Lab School, Wanda Young.

      Young also says if a child does become ill, they require a doctor's note releasing the child from care. The lab school also keeps the child's vaccination records on file.

      Medical officials are hoping we all take precautions to protecting our families against this deadly outbreak.