Lexington, SC (WLTX) - It is deadly, it is spreading and it is preventable. The Centers for Disease Control is urging the public to get a simple vaccine for a disease that many thought was obsolete in the United States - pertussis, or as it's more commonly referred to, whopping cough.
The disease is caused by bacteria that can be especially dangerous for infants and children under 5 years of age.
Hearing a child struggling to breathe is a terrifying sound for parents.
"They will have this fit of coughing and then this sudden inhalation afterwards that creates this high pitched whooping sound," explained Dr. Hance Oliver with Providence Family Medicine Lexington.
The CDC says nearly 18,000 cases have already been reported in 2012. That's more than twice the number at this time last year.
"The vaccine has been around for a long time and we're on track right now to have the most number of pertussis, or whopping cough, since the 1950's."
It starts like a common cold with symptoms including a runny nose, sneezing and mild fever; however, soon it is followed by a cough.
"Frequent rapid coughs that sometimes, especially in children, are followed by that whooping sound as the patient inhales rapidly."
The coughing can become so severe it can cause vomiting, broken ribs and death. According to the CDC, 1 in 100 children who are hospitalized with the disease will die.
There is a simple solution; a vaccine that over the years many have decided not to get.
"There is a boycott of vaccines that is occurring," said Oliver, "there is some concern over the safety and most of those concerns are unfounded and not backed up by the scientific literature."
Pertussis is very contagious and can spread to 80% of those coming in contact with a sick person. That's why health professionals are urging that everyone take the proper precautions
"It can prevent deaths, it can save lives and everybody should get the vaccine."
Dr. Oliver says that Whooping cough is the only vaccine preventable disease that's on the rise in the United States.
In South Carolina children under the age of 6 are required to be vaccinated before attending school or daycare. It is important for children, teens and adults to get boosters throughout their lives.
For more information regarding whooping cough, click here.
To contact Providence Family Medicine Lexington, click here.