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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -- A local mom says she, her husband and their three-year-old daughter all came down with pertussis, or whooping cough. They've been battling the symptoms the past four weeks.
"The cough would not quit, and it increased. It got worse as the days went on," said Holly talking about her little girl's reaction to the disease. The family wanted WBTV to protect their privacy.
They have spoken to the Mecklenburg County Health Department for guidance and treatment options.
Holly says her daughter has coughing episodes that are so bad, the little girl gasps for breath and eventually vomits.
"It is very frightening," she said.
State health officials say parts of North Carolina have seen an outbreak. Alamance County has the most cases so far this year. The state total through the first week of June was 179 cases, compared to 126 cases for all of 2011.
Nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control reports 37 states have an increase in cases. Nine people have died.
For Holly, she said it breaks her heart to watch her child suffer. She says what makes it worse, is the fact that she and her husband did not have recent vaccinations. They did not know the immunity eventually wears off.
She believes they may have passed the disease on to their daughter.
"I have been on a mission," she said. Holly says she is trying to spread the word to friends and family about the importance of current vaccinations.
Dr. Amina Ahmed is a Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician with Carolinas Medical Center, who says the importance of vaccinations can not be stressed enough.
"Now we've discovered, through time, that the immunity wanes and we do need a booster vaccine for pertussis," she said.
Dr. Ahmed said it's not just about protecting the individual, it's about providing another layer of protection for those most at risk: babies.
She recommends anyone who has contact with an infant get vaccinated, because pertussis can prove deadly.
With more people vaccinated, state officials say there will be fewer cases and fewer chances for exposure.
The State Health Department is offering vaccines for people older than age seven without insurance. Those interested can contact their local health department for more information.
For more information from the Centers for Disease Control, click here.