Whooping cough strikes infants in Washington State



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Posted on September 25, 2010 at 10:44 AM

Updated Saturday, Sep 25 at 10:44 AM

Baby Madisyn's cry is still too weak says her mother. But it's precious to hear it.

"She's got pertussis, whooping cough. And she almost died from it," said mom Kandiss Jackson, who has stayed at Madisyn's side at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle for nearly a month.

Each day coughing fits have turned her baby blue, and stopped her breathing.

"It lasts anywhere from seconds to minutes. They have to give her oxygen. She's too weak to eat so she has a feeding tube," said Kandiss.

The way Madisyn was exposed to whooping cough is heart wrenching for her mother.

"From me, she got it from me," said Kandiss.

Like many people, Kandiss believed her own childhood pertussis shot was good for life. But the vaccine loses potency over time.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Farah Cassis-Ghavami says adults often don't realize they're exposing others.

"Because when it's at its most contagious stage you usually just present as if you have a common cold. So you can just have a mild cough, runny nose, and you think 'Oh I just have a cold for the season,'" he said.

Kandiss says she's grateful Madisyn's older sister and brother were up-to-date on vaccinations.

"My son's in school, I mean, my other two are completely fine," she said. She says she wishes she had known there was a way to protect baby Madisyn too.

Infants aren't old enough to get immunized until two months of age.

So Dr. Cassis-Ghavami says for babies who are younger, "the protection is that anyone in their household be immunized. If they're immunized, most likely they're not going to get whooping cough, and so this way they're protecting the infant before the infant can get immunized."

Kandiss hopes other parents learn from her family's experience.

"Get your kids their shots. It is so important, I've seen the difference," she said.

Dr. Cassis-Ghavami says there's another reason for adults and older kids to protect infants by getting boosters. Children with whooping cough are given antibiotics, but the medicine can only stop the illness from spreading to others. It can't help the infected child. And the symptoms of pertussis can last for weeks.