Doctors in SC seeing surge in whooping cough cases

LANCASTER, SC (WCSC) - An old disease is seeing a big return in South Carolina and doctors say it's because some families wait too long to immunize their babies.

In the tri-county in 2008, there were 18 cases of whooping cough. A year later, that number almost doubled to 51 cases. In the first eight months of 2010, doctors have already dealt with 70 cases.

However, one Lancaster, SC, family is hoping to turn the tide on the resurgence of this disease after they lost their baby to whooping cough in January.

Felicia Dube only has memories of her 6-pound 6-ounce son Carter who was born in December. Weeks after his birth he was rushed to this hospital and diagnosed with whooping cough.

"It's so simple to prevent," Dube said. "Little Carter died at only seven weeks old. It's as simple as getting a shot. At eight weeks he was to have gotten his first vaccination."

Dube said Carter's first immunization appointment was scheduled for days after he was laid to rest. "But with some vaccinations, he would've had a better chance of fighting it," she said.

Carter did not have that chance, though. He was too young for the shot when he was infected.

Carter's father is an EMT. He said he had only read about whooping cough in textbooks.

The tell-tale cough doesn't come right away, though. At first, doctors were not quite sure what Carter had.

"By the time Carter started with the croupy cough, he was too sick to get better. That comes when you've been sick for a while," Dube said.

Now the Dube family has a mission -- to teach other families that whooping cough is not a thing of the past. They say since the cough comes later, the disease can be spread long before the carrier shows symptoms.

And babies are most vulnerable.

"On Friday, he was fine. On a Tuesday he had a fever," Dube said. "Nine days later, he was gone."

Carter's older brother Zach wants other children to help protect their baby brothers and sisters with vaccinations. "If you had a little brother or sister, I'd get it just to be safe," he said.

Sadly, the family will likely never know how Carter was infected.

"It could have been one of us; he could have caught it at the pediatrician's office. We had him in Walmart I think once," Dube said. "He could have picked it up anywhere."

Yet, instead of wondering where and how, the Dube family is telling Carter's story and hoping to wipe out whooping cough.

And Dube is happy to share the family's good news. She is pregnant again.

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