14 percent increase in WA whooping cough cases




Posted on October 6, 2011 at 11:12 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

The State Health Department is sounding the alarm on whooping cough.  Already this year, 58 infants younger than one-year-old have been diagnosed.  Twenty-two of those were hospitalized and two of them died.

An aunt of one of those babies has launched a personal crusade to get the most contagious populations immunized: adults.

Kaliah was just three weeks old when she died.  Now Tonya Lively wants to make sure adults are up-to-date on their pertussis shots.  Even though symptoms can be so mild, some adults don't even know they have pertussis, which is whooping cough.  The problem is they can pass it onto babies.

That's why Lively is an aunt on a mission.

"In adults, pertussis is not a serious illness and that's really where we worry about adults creating new cases of people who may be at risk of a serious case, children especially," Dr. Dugdale with the UW School of Medicine said.

It's what happened to Kaliah, even though her mom got the booster shot at age 12.  That's because the effectiveness wears off over time.  So adults need to be revaccinated.

"It's extremely frustrating, we lost a baby in our family.  These people in this community need to have this vaccine to stop the next baby from dying.  It's not OK to lose babies over a disease that suppose to have eradicated now.  This shouldn't be a problem," Lively said.

But there is a problem since babies cannot be vaccinated for pertussis until they're two months old.  Kaliah never reached that milestone.

"We went back into the room and I held her in my arms and then they took her off the machine and within minutes she was gone," Chelsey Charles, mother of Kaliah, said.

"No other family should have to lose a baby before something is done.  How many babies have to die before somebody does something...it shouldn't have to be that way," Lively said.

Immunizations are free to all kids in Washington state.  A booster shot is recommended at ages 11 to 12.  Adults, check with your doctor if you need the shot.  Get it, especially, if you spend time around kids.

The Mayo Clinic produced an informational video about whooping cough that includes audio of the distinctive sounds made by young children infected with the virus. Watch below: