Whooping cough on the rise in Michiana - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Whooping cough on the rise in Michiana

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What may seem like the common cold with a cough that just wont go away could be something much more serious. Whooping cough is making a dangerous comeback across the country, including right here in Michiana.

One mother is on a mission to warn parents about getting their kids vaccinated.

December 24th, 2009 is a Christmas Eve Katie VanTornhout will never forget. Her daughter Callie Grace was born. After 5 miscarriages, VanTornhout dubbed her "her miracle baby."

"She was this feisty, she was cute. She was this tiny little baby," said VanTornhout. "We had her here for 3 weeks, and then she got a cough on a Sunday afternoon. She was coughing so hard, and turning blue, and she couldn't breath." That's when they admitted her to the hospital and still, couldn't figure out the problem.

It wasn't long until Callie stopped breathing in her mothers arms. Just 37 days after Callie was born, she passed away, leaving her parents wondering what took their little girl away.

VanTornhout spoke to doctors after Callie's passing. "It was pertussis," they told her. "And we were like 'What's pertussis?' Whooping cough. And we both sat there and checked and we thought this is a disease of the past."

Callie was too young to receive her first vaccination. Her parents believe she was exposed to whooping cough at the hospital.

It has been four years since Callie passed away, and the threat of whooping cough is remains a danger to kids. Dan Nafziger, Elkhart County Health Officer, says whooping cough tends to impact our youngest and most vulnerable.

Statewide, the Indiana Department of Health has reported 483 cases this year, more than last year's total of 441. The Elkhart County Health Department reported 12 cases of whooping cough last year in 2012. Already this year, 20 cases have been reported, and doctors say this is just the tip of the iceberg. "There are a lot more of these infections out there where they're adults, they don't get very sick. They don't go to the doctor, they don't get tested. And so we don't count them in our numbers," says Nafziger.

That's why VanTornhout is on a mission in Callie's name. Everywhere she drives, people can read her license plate "Callie" and learn her story. VanTornhout is spreading the word that Whopping Cough is not a disease of the past. "People just think they're too good for it or it's not going to happen to them. Let me tell you, it can happen to you if can happen to me," says VanTornhout.

She adds, "If they could put their selves in my shoes for a day, and not have their child here because of a vaccine preventable disease, their whole world would change. It's not fair that you're not letting your kids get vaccinated, or you're not getting vaccinated, but my kid's not here because of it."

Doctors say the disease can lay dormant in adults for up to 3 weeks before any signs are seen.
If you have a cough that lasts more than 3 weeks, doctors urge you to get tested for whooping cough. Even if you have the vaccine as a kid, doctors say chances are you'll need a booster. You should consult your doctor about what's the best option for you.

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