HOUSTON – Nationally, pertussis – also known as whooping cough—is on the rise.
But while adults can get infected, it’s babies who are the most vulnerable to the disease.
One local family found that out the hard way.
Brittany Strawn said when her 3-month-old boy, Maddox, first fell ill, she thought he had a sinus infection or a cold.
She took him to the emergency room, and though she initially thought it was something minor, her motherly instinct quickly kicked in.
"I actually questioned the ER doctor if it might be pertussis, because I had seen so many videos, and she told me there were no cases in Texas," Strawn said.
So the Strawns were sent home. The very next day, though, things went from bad to worse.
"He was coughing for two minutes straight. After one episode he stopped breathing. He went limp in my arms," she said. "I thought for sure it was the end."
After that, Strawn said her son spent a total of five days in the hospital recovering from pertussis.
According to Dr. Carol Baker, he won’t be the last local kid to do so.
"We’re on track to have more cases this year in 2012 than we’ve had in the U.S. since there has been a vaccine available," she said.
The CDC has classified pertussis, a highly-contagious bacterial disease that causes violent coughing – as an epidemic.
Dr. Baker said infants aren’t immune to it until they’re 6 months old – after they’ve completed a series of shots.
But Baker said adults need to get boosters, too, to prevent passing the disease on.
That’s what the Strawn family is doing – and sharing their story in the hopes of saving someone else a terrifying experience.
"Take it seriously – the first cough. The sooner you get treatment, the better your odds, because it can be fatal," Strawn said.