This past summer, California declared a whooping cough (pertussis) epidemic, mirroring a 2010 outbreak that was deemed the largest the Golden State had experienced in 60 years. Now the situation is even more dire, with close to 10,000 reported cases since November of last year, making it the worst outbreak in recent times.
A major culprit in the disease’s spread has been attributed to a slew of wealthy and well-educated families who have refused to receive the pertussis vaccine. The disease is highly contagious and the violent cough that accompanies it can sometimes last for months; if its victims survive its painful rage.
“I’m hoping that parents realize that it’s an issue. It’s not just happening here and there. It’s all over,” said Katie Van Tornhout, who lost her 37-day infant Callie during the 2010 outbreak, according to ABC News. When asked by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) why she did not get vaccinated while pregnant with Callie, she said “we didn’t know what it was.” Her doctor reportedly had not told her about it.
Whooping cough has been appearing in infants recently and since children typically aren’t due for the TDaP vaccine until two months of age, the CDC recommends moms get vaccinated while pregnant to prevent the onset of the deadly disease.
The CDC explains that approximately 50% of all children under a year of age who catch pertussis require hospitalization, notes ABC. Of that figure, nearly two percent of them die. However, the lack of awareness about the TDaP vaccine could result in a much higher number of casualties throughout California.
After experiencing the tragic loss of her baby, Katie started working as an advocate for Every Child by Two, a nonprofit organization that aims to raise awareness about vaccine-preventable diseases such as the one she could have averted. Katie has reportedly gone on to give birth to three more children, and had the TDaP vaccine for all three pregnancies, notes ABC.
“If it can happen to my child, it can happen to theirs,” Katie warned.