New Mexico records first infant pertussis death since 2005

An infant in San Miguel County, New Mexico, recently died as a result of a pertussis, or whooping cough, infection.

The New Mexico Department of Public Health said it the first time that an infant in the state has died from pertussis since 2005, according to

Health officials did not release the name or gender of the infant, but said the two-month-old child died late last week. The infant had been given the first of three doses of the DTaP vaccine against pertussis.

The vaccine does not offer protection from the respiratory illness until the third dose is administered at six months of age. The first dose is generally given at two months.

Health officials said that New Mexico experienced more whooping cough cases in 2011 than it had at any year since the 1980s. This year, the New Mexico Health Department has confirmed 110 cases of the illness. Thirteen of the cases have been in infants, and eight required hospitalization.

Pertussis is a highly contagious bacterial infection that causes uncontrollable, and often violent, coughing spasms that can make it difficult for the infected to breathe. It can cause permanent disability in infants.

The infection is spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes and tiny droplets containing the bacteria spread. It generally lasts six weeks, with initial symptoms developing approximately a week after exposure, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.