Whooping cough rising in infants

Cough can be fatal to babies; already record number of cases this year

Men's Health magazine lists the top 10 spots germs may be hiding in your house and elsewhere.
Men's Health magazine lists the top 10 spots germs may be hiding in your house and elsewhere. (iStock)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. is on course for a record breaking year, but it's not good news by any means.

More than two dozen babies died in 2010 from whooping cough, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this year's infant death numbers could reach epidemic proportions.

"Yeah, you may just have a cough that's annoying, but if you transfer that cough to a young child, they could die from that," said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, of Shands Jacksonville Medical Center.

The distinctive whooping, coughing sound ended in the deaths of 25 babies just last year.

The CDC said by July 2011, it had 200 reported cases, but already this year, 2,700 cases of whooping cough have been reported to the CDC.

The CDC is closely monitoring outbreaks in 19 states, an outbreak doctors said they've never seen in their lifetime.

Medical professionals say whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions, because parents aren't taking preventative measures.

"The focus should be on prevention. We have a safe vaccine," Rathore said. "This can be prevented. We have to get the vaccines."

Health experts said 95 percent of U.S. children are vaccinated each year, but only 10 percent of the adults in their homes are immunized.

Babies less than two months old are too young to get the vaccine, so they are especially vulnerable.

"When infants get the infection, they don't have large breathing tubes," Rathore said. "People die from them, less than 6 months of age."

Rathore said women can protect their children, before they're even born.

"It's extremely important for people around children to be immunized," Rathore said. "Women of child bearing age, before they get pregnant, it's a good time to get immunized. Or right after the baby is born, it's good idea to get immunized."