Whooping cough used to be one of the most common childhood diseases and a major cause of childhood death.
But after a vaccine was invented for the cough, the illness nearly disappeared. But it appears whooping cough is now making a comeback.
The cough -- named for the sound created as sufferers gasp for air, killed nearly 10,000 Americans a year in the 1990s -- many of them children.
In the 1980s, there were only 1,700 cases nationwide. Today, the number of annual cases has increased to around 13,000.
"I'm surprised. I had no idea," mom, Ashley Roberts, responded. "I thought it was a thing of the past."
Whooping cough is highly contagious and can be treated with antibiotics in the early stages.
Symptoms of whooping cough -- medical name "pertussis" -- are similar to the common cold:
- runny nose
- a mild cough.
But after a week or two, the cough can become severe.
Although some parents choose not to have their children vaccinated, doctors say giving kids the series of six shots is the best way to protect them and the people around them.
"Two months, four months, and six months of age. Then that immunity is boosted at 18 months, five years, and again in adolescence at 11 or 12," pediatrician Dr. Robert Wiskind explained.
Doctors add that today's improved vaccines have fewer side effects. They advise adults who haven't had a shot since their childhood to get a booster, especially if they are in close contact with a baby.
*Originally published July 23, 2010.